It is not surprising that women are underrepresented in the manufacturing sector, and the argument to increase the industry’s fair share of female talent is persuasive. But one thing is certain, the manufacturing companies are likely to need a different approach to recruiting, skilling, retaining, and advancing women in their units.
Godrej & Boyce, the manufacturing company operating in 14 diverse sectors, has always been in the forefront to include more women in its manufacturing plants, where women are often underrepresented.
“Women handle a lot of responsibilities at home, and therefore, when they come to work in the forefront, they feel far more empowered.”
Harpreet Kaur, senior vice president & head, corporate personel & administration’ Godrej & Boyce, says that women in the Company are mostly in the blue-collared category and most of the women employees are very hard working as compared to their male counterparts in the manufacturing plants.
Kaur believes, “There are different benefits of having women on the shop floors, such as a healthy balance, maturity at work, and more discipline and focus on the brief given. They are far more authentic, in terms of manufacturing and production. Also, they try to sustain things, and not compromise on quality, thus creating processes for improvement.”
“The direction of the Company, wherever possible, has been about engaging more women in the workforce,” she alludes.
The manufacturing unit in Goa, which happens to be its largest plant, has a healthy ratio of women employees in assembly-line operations, which are managed very well by them.
Kaur also mentions that some of the other manufacturing plants in Pune and Mohali, that are heavy in engineering and yielding operations, involve hefty equipment, which is why they have more of male employees in such units.
Nonetheless, Kaur hardly sees any difference in the kind of effort and diligence that the women employees have showcased during difficult times. “We are enhancing the skills of the women staff in the manufacturing plants, by providing forklift driving training, appliance systems training, and so on,” she adds.
Godrej & Boyce has also undertaken similar experiments with women on the shop floor, where their presence is not much, for instance, the manufacturing dock unit in Goa.
In Kaur’s words, “Women handle a lot of responsibilities at home, and therefore, when they come to work in the forefront, they feel far more empowered. The kind of regard and respect they have for their employer, is far different than men.”
As a manufacturing firm, the need to perform and get the job done is always high — much higher than any other sector. Given the kind of mindset the women possess, there is no doubting the commitment they have towards the work, and no organisation can ask for anything better.
Kaur highlights that the male employees are also engaged, but the difference they are witnessing in the women employees is on a huge scale.
Headquartered in Mumbai, the Company has taken women in its white-collared operator category as well. “There was a dire need to have women engineers on the shop floor in the manufacturing, product supply or R&D, because we feel they handle responsibilities with far more diligence and authenticity,” Kaur adds.
Godrej & Boyce has close to 11,000 employees in the manufacturing plants on payroll, of which 80 per cent are women and the remaining men. However, on contractual basis, the manufacturing firm has more male labourers than women.
Talking of migrant workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of them have faced multiple hardships. With factories and workplaces shut down due to the lockdown imposed in the country, millions of migrant workers had to deal with the loss of income, food shortages and uncertainty about their future. Following this, many of them have gone back to their villages out of insecurity and loss of income.
Similarly, the manufacturing firm is faced with a situation where there is a shortage of migrant workers and a possibility for the Company to scale down its operations.
As some of the migrant workers have moved out, Kaur feels that this is the right time to multi-skill its employees, especially, the women on the forefront.
“The workload is much higher for the employees who are regular on the Company payroll. Their being multi-skilled is an advantage — even if some workers are absent, others are able to move in to do the job, from one skill to another, when required,” she adds.
“If an employee is skilled in handling operations upon receiving the material to manufacture, performing quality control checks and also ensuring dispatch, then, as an organisation, you are able to manage the entire ecosystem with the same set of people.”
Godrej & Boyce comes with the philosophy of grooming people with multi-skilling objectives, where each person should know about three to four skills in areas theory are working.
Right now, Kaur adds, “In the COVID situation, it is not about skill enhancement but utilising the skills which the employees already have. It is time to double up to take care of the business requirements in the absence of manpower.”
Skilling has been an ongoing activity at Godrej, but currently, its employees are making up for the lost time, and that too, in the absence of a majority of the migrant workers.
As a part of skill upgradation, there is a roadmap of categories for each department. The shop floor supervisors have a plan to train each employee, in rotation, on the new skills that are required.
“Currently, it is about putting to use the skills that are available, as the total headcount is yet not operational in the plants. We are operating with 60 to 70 per cent capacity, and therefore, the load is automatically higher on everybody,” she adds.