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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Esops of a different kind : THE HUMAN FACTOR

M&M's Rudrapur plant staff used their Esop budget and engineering skills to run a hospital.

When Mahindra & Mahindra decided to commit one per cent of its profit after tax (PAT) every year to support various social and community development issues, it needed a distinctive identity for the project. So it launched Esop.

Instead of stock options (which are anyway there), M&M decided to offer “social options” to its employees. And to ensure a buy-in at the top, the company has made Esop a key result area for its senior and middle-management employees.

Rajeev Dubey, president (HR & corporate services), says employees with a higher Esop score are considered for higher pay benefits. “But that’s just a footnote in the broader story. The main idea is to ensure that you find a Mahindra employee contributing to society on any given day of the year,” Dubey says.

But how is it different from any other CSR activity of companies? Dubey says the Esop scheme has been designed to make it an employees’ project, meaning it is less top-down and more bottom-up. Another way it differs from CSR is that it relies less on employees contributing money for a need, and more on volunteering their time and efforts to make a different to a cause.

To make Esop work and ensure that it doesn’t remain just a PR spin, the group has an elaborate structure in place. Each plant and office has Esop leaders, Esop champions and Esop implementation councils who are directly responsible to ensure maximum employee participation.

The system seems to be working well. Consider the Lifeline Express. The world’s first hospital on rail chugged into Uttarakhand for the first time after employees at M&M’s farm equipment sector plant at Rudrapur decided to utilise their share of the Esop budget in this mega health project. Managed by Impact India Foundation, Lifeline Express offers on-the-spot diagnostic, medical and surgical interventions in remote areas, free of cost. The Express consists of five fully air-conditioned coaches equipped with sophisticated medical and surgical facilities as well as a training centre for doctors.

Since this was the largest Esop initiative being undertaken by any Mahindra company, the top management realised it had to play the role of an ideator, motivator as well as an implementer. A core team of M&M Lifeline Express comprising employees’ representatives of the plant and the CSR team, Mumbai, made several visits to Rudrapur to select the potential railway sites in association with the district administration and the railway authorities.

The Lifeline Express was an employees’ project all the way. First, the managers and heads of the department from the Rudrapur plant got together to understand from the CSR team what exactly their role was, and how much manpower would be required. Once this was done, these employees did a study of the screening center and the Mahindra Ward — to decide the layout and the arrangements required. Sub-teams were formed under them to take care of different areas such as transport, cleanliness in the ward, canteen, medicines stock, statistics/documentation, patient-enquiry, admissions and general maintenance.

In a way, engineers were running an entire hospital. Employees, who were so far in the world of tractors, machines, assembly lines and production targets, were now dealing with people, patients, surgeons and volunteers. The farm equipment sector, which had won two prestigious awards — Japan Quality medal and the Deming prize — puts its engineering capabilities to great use in this people’s project.

Various quality tools, usually applied in production, were applied by these sub-teams. At the screening centre, for example, there were thousands of villagers with their families at any given point of time to get themselves checked, screened and registered for surgery. The Mahindra engineers managed the crowds with the help of PFDs (process flow diagrams) prepared in advance.

At the post-operative ward, there was a large inflow of patients and attendants and a continuous outflow of operated patients. While the inflow varied as per the number of surgeries performed, the outflow varied with the recovering speed of each type of surgery. The Rudrapur engineers struck a fine balance, thanks to their inventory management fundamentals, record keeping details, first-in-first-out (referred as FIFO) policies, and so on.

The efforts put in by the Rudrapur plant employees paid off, with the team of doctors performing 647 surgeries in 24 days and offered advice to more than 2,000 patients suffering from four disablements: polio, cataract, deafness and cleft lip.

More importantly, the project gave the engineers and other staff an experiential learning of skills such as administration, people management, logistics management, crisis management and optimum utilisation of resources. In that sense, Esop has paid off for M&M and its employees much more than what the company had sought to achieve.

By Shyamal Majumdar


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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