How does the automobile industry keep its employees engaged during crisis?

The auto sector is going through a very bad phase. So, what are those key areas that need looking into, to keep employees engaged?

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Every now and then when you check for your daily dose of news, you will come across people talking about the deteriorating situation in the automobile industry. The sales are at a record low, with companies shutting their factories for at least 15 days in a month. The auto ancillary industry has also witnessed a lot of layoffs in the last two or three months. Naturally, this also affects the morale and psyche of the employees in the automobile industry. When business is low, how can the employees be motivated? What are the problems that the face?

When business is not doing well, the attrition level shoots up. People start leaving, just like passengers jump off a sinking ship.

“When the business is going through a rough patch, some amount of attrition is generally welcomed to cut costs. But here also, you need to retain the top talent whom you have nurtured over the years,” says NV Balachandar, executive director-HR, Ashok Leyland.

In situations like these, you really need to tell your employees that you care for them to keep them motivated. To do that, there are two very important components which can be used—recognition, and training and development.

NV Balachandar

“Clear and transparent communication is very important. The company should tell its employees what Plan B is going to be, in order to come out of these tough times”

“At VE Vehicles, we allow employees to keep moving and changing their departments to give them an agile culture. Apart from that, during these tough times, we really believe in training and developing our employees,” shares Divya Mohan, head of HR for sales and marketing, VE Commercial Vehicles.

According to Mohan, VE Commercial Vehicles has a leadership academy where its top leaders conduct classes for the employees on various topics. Other development activities also take place here. The Company also trains its employees for the future challenges, which keeps them engaged and motivated.

Divya Mohan

“At VE Vehicles, we allow employees to keep moving and changing their departments to give them an agile culture. Apart from that, during these tough times, we really believe in training and developing our employees”

Talking to Rajeshwar Tripathi, CHRO, Mahindra & Mahindra, some new facts also came to light. In such troubled times, a large employee turnover is expected, but according to Tripathi, Mahindra is facing no such problems. In fact, the attrition has actually gone down.

“You will not see attrition going up all the time. Our employees have faith in us and the management. They do not fear anything. We have faced such tough times in the past and we do not believe in laying off people,” asserts Tripathi.

“Winning the trust of an employee is a long-term activity. When business is going downhill, the behaviour of your employees depends upon how you have treated them in the past,” adds Tripathi.

Training and development, recognising talent and controlling attrition are all fine, but there is another important element that we need to look into—transparent communication. All the HR leaders who spoke to HRKatha emphasised on clarity and transparency in communication.

“Clear and transparent communication is very important. The company should tell its employees what Plan B is going to be, in order to come out of these tough times,” explains Balachandar.

Of course, transparent communication gives a clear picture to employees about what is going to happen. When sales is low and business is not going well, the morale of the employees really goes down, especially the sales department.

Rajeshwar Tripathi

“Winning the trust of an employee is a long-term activity. When business is going downhill, the behaviour of your employees depends upon how you have treated them in the past”

“Employee connect is a very powerful tool. During tough times we have discussions and open houses to ensure clear communication with employees. We need to ensure that we do not create fear. Instead, we support the employees,” suggests Mohan.

To survive the tough times, you need the support of your best employees. That can only happen if you build a strong relation with them over the years. Of course, small interventions during bad times will help, but your overall scorecard will play a bigger role. Recognising employees and developing them is a great tool, which can play a crucial role in such downturns.

In addition, communication is the a key which holds your employees together.

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