Why India Inc. is wary of hiring from PSUs

The work culture in a private company is totally different from that of a government entity

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The news of Air India all set to be taken over by Tata Sons has grabbed headlines over the past few days. Naturally, speculations are rife about the new owners laying off employees to recover profits. Many grounded aircraft may be sold off, which will necessitate reduction of excess staff. Currently, Air India employs more than 14,000 people. Though the employees should not really worry about their jobs since the Niti Ayog’s recommendations clearly mention that the new owner cannot fire them till the completion of one year of employment. The question is, what happens after that buffer period is over? Will those from the public sector be welcomed in the private sector? Given the world of difference in the work culture and even in the HR processes, will private companies be keen to hire those from the PSUs?

“Recruiters in the private sector generally need to have a very strong case to hire somebody from a government entity”

Shailesh Singh, chief people officer, Max Life Insurance

Most of the HR leaders HRKatha had a chat with admit that, in general, private recruiters are wary of hiring people from a PSU background.

Shailesh Singh, chief people officer, Max Life Insurance, says, “Recruiters in the private sector generally need to have a very strong case to hire somebody from a government entity.”

Sushil Baveja, executive director – HR, DCM Shriram, also agrees that private-sector employers are apprehensive about hiring people from a PSU background.

Why do private employers avoid hiring PSU employees?

The reasons are obvious. In India, the manner of working in a private company is way different from that in a public-sector entity. The soft skills and attitude required to work in a fast-paced result- oriented private company is hard to find in an individual from a PSU background.

Singh believes, the upskilling practices at PSUs are very outdated. “People working in the public sector do not update themselves in terms of skills, which makes it difficult for private companies to hire them,” tells Singh.

“Tenured PSU employees are accustomed to a particular way of working, and therefore, the agility to adapt to change is very rare amongst them”

Sushil Baveja, executive director – HR, DCM Shriram

Baveja describes PSU employees as mostly being used to a bureaucratic culture, where decision making is rather slow. Therefore, they may fail to adapt to the speed at which private-sector companies generally operate. In fact, many MNCs have made their processes lean to make decision making faster and efficient.

“Tenured PSU employees are accustomed to a particular way of working, and therefore, the agility to adapt to change is very rare amongst them,” points out Baveja.

However, not everything about PSU employees is negative. They do have some strengths too

What are the pros of hiring PSU employees?

“I find that people in PSUs are very process driven, which can be rather valuable to a private company as well”

Jayant Kumar, Jt. president – HR, Adani Ports & SEZ

Hope is not all lost for PSU employees looking for opportunities in the private sector. As per Jayant Kumar, Jt. president – HR, Adani Ports & SEZ, every individual has a learning curve. If given time, even PSU employees can transform themselves to adapt to a private-company setup. “I find that people in PSUs are very process driven, which can be rather valuable to a private company as well,” states Kumar. He also draws attention to the fact that since PSU employees rarely move to another enterprise in their career, private-sector employers can leverage the longevity factor and hope to see them staying on with their company longer as loyal employees.

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