Industrial relations: The most ignored subject in HR education


The education system has to be redesigned to equip future IR practitioners with the skills to handle the behavioural variables of the highly ambitious and impatient organised workforce

If the status quo persists, Industrial Relations (IR) in manufacturing India will continue to be generic for at least another 25 odd years.

This is because the majority of IR practitioners, as well as organisations, often fail to comprehend the fundamentals of their interdependent needs, roles and responsibilities.

Though, we do own the job we are working for, at the same time, we are reluctant to own the failures on our part. It’s true that the situation is improving now, but it will take an entire working generation to reach the next level.

Unlike our elegant and remote past, systematically over the last few centuries we have become a product of starved eventualities and not of planned natural progression.

Our education and development system was designed and enforced by various external aggressors and their aided manipulators. They rewired our minds to suit the subordinate jobs to be done at their extortive will.

Their basic teaching patterns made us memorise the lessons, to ensure that we tolerated their dictates, and were discouraged from deriving logical conclusions or evolving. Their bullishness made us accommodative to the lazy, egoist, dishonest and escapist environment. That is why, most of us are groomed in a fashion to desire for the disproportionate benefits and wages against work output.

On the other hand, even today, IR is the most untaught subject in our HR education system. With the growth of the economy, the industrial employment opportunities and individual aspirations are expected to grow exponentially. But the education to equip our future IR practitioners, with the skills required, to handle the behavioral variables of the highly ambitious, impatient and organised workforce is yet to make its presence felt.

Even though our HR students are taught advanced HR subjects, such as business transformation and organisational turnaround, employee performance management and appraisal systems, human resource management in the service sector, managing negotiations, personal competencies for international HRM and strategic human resources management, there remains an urgent need to redesign the education system. What is required is progressive education and managerial input, which will develop students to be natural IR managers.

We must imbibe the Darwinian and Newtonian theories in our daily, minute-to-minute lives, that is, we can continue to remain ‘fittest for survival’ only with constant conceptual updation and mutation through rigorous ‘struggle for existence’.

Working only for a genuine cause, can have a real effect. Quick short-cuts for instant supremacy will simply make us unfit for the long run. The speed, technique, and consistency required for a marathon has to be different than a 100-metre sprint. The choice of destiny is not ours; it gets decided through our choice of path and fitness to remain ahead, with the collective coexistence of ‘need, greed, and maryada’!

Therefore, we need to prepare our IR practitioners to avoid short-cuts and dive deep into the ground realities of human emotions. They should be able to understand the significance of individual capabilities, roll modelling, legalities, interpersonal skills, crisis management, trustworthiness, communication, discipline maintenance, empathy and other value-added softer skills, required to make optimum use of the available workforce. Other than this, an understanding of the procedural skills of manpower planning, recruitment, induction, appraisal assessment, remuneration management, progression, training and development is also necessary. It is therefore clear that there are two separate goal-oriented branches of HR study —Industrial Relations Management (IRM) and HR Development (HRD).

(The author is the Plant HR Head, Hero MotoCorp. The views expressed in this article are those of the author in his personal capacity.)



  1. To Understand the significance of individual capabilities, roll modelling, legalities, interpersonal skills, crisis management, trustworthiness, communication, discipline maintenance, empathy and other value-added softer skills, all these cannot be taught but can be inculcated with real time interface over a period of time. Also the way yougeeies are nurtured matters a lot with respect to their interest in IR domain.

  2. A short and crisp write up emphasising upon the usually glossed over aspect of management. Coming from the man at ground zero provides it the due credence. Extremely well articulated article.

  3. very well said .The young generation is not interested in knowing or handling IR issues at ground level I would say that HR professions get to understand ground realities only if they integtate HRM & IRM and look at it with a holistic approach ..

  4. Enjoyed reading this article…. please write more. I thoroughly agree on TWO current contexts……1) being an HR faculty….i see HR-School’s focus on “Industrial Relations” is very minimal even though the programme is “PM & IR” 🙂 …..!! 2) Recent global study by “AT Kearney” shows the life-cycle of a STRATEGY across industries, is less than 2 years and most them fail to make the impact as planned. As quoted in the article…….it is SPRINT running model that is aimed at “people management function” (IR is long-term) and hence this current state…….!!

  5. There is no role of HR in case there is a failure in Industrial Relations scenario. Issues in IR will immediately impact the business. Structured interaction / communication with trade unions / related stakeholders and educating them on the current business scenario will help for the smooth functioning of the business. Building trust among this bargaining group is very important for the success of the IR.

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