As a prelude to the MMA Annual Convention 2023, a competition was held on the theme “India’s Century: How to Drive Sustainable, Inclusive Growth?” About 75 young managers from various leading corporates participated. This article is from the winning presentation submitted by Saranya Mala T, Shreya V, and Ramya S—all from Saint-Gobain, Sriperumbudur.
Manufacturing jobs are an important source of employment for large workforces in developing countries. Of the 8 million workers employed in India’s formal manufacturing industries in 2019-20, 1.6 million (19.7%) were women, data from the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) shows. Of the 1.6 million women workers across India, 0.68 million (43%) were working in the factories of Tamil Nadu alone. In fact, nearly three-fourths (72%) of all women working in industries were employed in the four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
Few countries—because of their size and population—are poised to benefit from equality. In India, currently only 25 percent of the labour force is female and their contribution to domestic GDP is 17 percent—this is less than half the global average. According to The World Bank, doubling the percentage of women in the workforce would boost India’s growth rate from 7.5 to 9% and raise the country’s GDP to US$700 billion by 2025. According to studies, women barely constitute 12% in the manufacturing sector, just 3% in core engineering. The post-pandemic situation of women’s employment in manufacturing is likely to be much worse. CEDA-CMIE bulletins have highlighted that total manufacturing employment halved by 2020-21, and that overall employment of women had taken a much bigger hit.
There are several reasons why women are under-represented in the manufacturing and heavy industries sector. The obvious ones are that these require hard manual labour—not a correct assumption always—and that the hours are long and that they are not as lucrative as other professions. Another more compelling reason is that women are not encouraged to acquire the skills to go into this sector. On the other hand, women also bring collaboration, innovation and creative thinking to the workplace. As manufacturers strive to foster creativity, they have found that gender diversity boosts employee morale and retention. As a result, there has also been some growth in women employment not only in manufacturing, but also in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related fields.
Chennai is the “top city for women in India,” as per a study released by the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) firm Avtar Group. The study ranked 111 cities based on their social and industrial inclusion parameters towards nurturing a conducive ecosystem for women. The study notes that Tamil Nadu’s cities fare comparatively better on liveability. From a company’s perspective too, women in the workforce makes a company a better place to work for all, regardless of gender. A higher percentage of women in an organisation may translate to lower burnout, more job satisfaction, more organizational dedication and more meaningful work as well. Workforces with a higher percentage of women have said that they are likely to stay with their employer for reasons such as enjoyable work, work-life balance and an overall positive workplace culture. Experts say that women’s effective communication skills improve collaborative work efforts, while their intuition, sensitivity and emotional intelligence (EQ) help create a balanced workforce. For a rich, open corporate culture that is in tune with the world around us, we, at Saint-Gobain, recognize and respect the uniqueness of each individual. We want to integrate and mobilize these differences by creating an environment that promotes equity and equality, which are essential to true professional growth. We, therefore, commit to a principle of zero-tolerance of discrimination and promote diversity in all its forms: gender, nationality, social origin, training, professional, generational and disability. Our performance in terms of inclusion and diversity allows us to be included in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index 2023 for the fifth consecutive year. Saint-Gobain announced new objectives for gender diversity: “Our objective for 2025 is to reach 15% of women in Operations”. So, in addition to the inclusion of more women in the shop floor, the Mirror Line at Saint-Gobain India Pvt Ltd, Sriperumbudur, World Glass Complex, was converted to a unit of all-women plant.
● To convert the line to all-women (30 nos.) by Q2 2023
● Sustain all operational indicators (like OEE, Yield, etc.)
Manning /on-boarding, and on-the-job training
Finding the right people for the right job roles makes all the difference between a good and great result, whether it is day-to-day operations or year-to-year performance. It ensures that staff turnover falls, morale rises, and performance takes off. So, the manning and on-boarding at Saint-Gobain always follows the Pyramid model of recruitment:
Entry level: Tulir training
Tulir is an entry-level developmental model for selecting women trainees who have completed their engineering diploma from any of the polytechnic colleges in Tamil Nadu. The Tulir Diploma Engineering Trainee (DET) program is one such model where the Technician Apprentice trains in the organization under The Apprentice Act 1961 for a period of 12 months in the Mirror Plant.
Selection process and joining
- The eligible list of candidates is collected from the placement coordinators based on the eligibility criteria at Saint-Gobain India Pvt Ltd.
- Applicants are taken through a streamlined recruitment process through deployment of scientific tools such as Business Process Aptitude Test (BPAT).
- Physical activities for the candidates are conducted.
- This is followed by Group Discussions / Technical and HR interviews before the candidates are selected.
- After being ascertained as medically fit, the trainees join the Mirror Plant.
- Orientation on the SGIPL systems, operations, HR Policies, canteen and other relevant procedures is given elaborately.
- In order to provide them with necessary amenities during their initial phase of apprenticeship, they are provided with three months accommodation at the Transit house.
According to a research by Gallup, 87% of millennials claimed that L&D in the workplace is important. Around two-thirds insisted that they would consider the opportunities to learn and grow when applying for a job.
Corporate training sessions of 14-15 days is given to the trainees with Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF) being the training partner. This encompasses classroom sessions on soft skills / basics of electrical / mechanical / instrumentation / PLC, etc. (pasted here is the timetable followed in the past year).
Functional induction @WGC
Tulir trainees are taken through detailed induction on safety / soft skills / induction and line visits to all businesses at the World Glass Complex (WGC). Initially, first-hand knowledge and experience through classroom sessions is provided on the glass manufacturing process and the multiple value addition processes. The trainees will then visit the manufacturing lines to understand the vision and mission of the business better. During this induction phase, they tend to interact with the leadership team as well.
Functional training partnered with TVS
Trainees are sent to TVS Training Centre for a period of 45 days to undergo training in:
- Soft Skills – Communication / Self-Confidence
- Industrial Safety / Lean / First aid / Fire Safety
- 5S / Kaizen / Improvement activities / Basic problem-solving tools
- Basics of electrical / mechanical / chemical / pneumatics / maintenance / quality / pumps fitting shop / PLC / VFD etc.
- Every 10 days, there will be a Gemba visit to the Mirror Line to connect their learning with on-hand processes.
- Industrial visits to two industries with predominantly women workforce
- Weekly review by the employees at the Mirror Line in keeping with the training needs (e.g., A maintenance engineer at the Mirror Line will review the work undertaken by the trainees)
Mirror plant induction
Inducted trainees will undergo at least three days of training in each section of Mirror Line. After this, a review will be conducted with the leadership team to make a decision on the deployment of training.
Shadow / on-the-job training
After their deployment, the trainees undergo on-the-job / shadow training with their coaches. Each trainee is assigned a coach / mentor throughout their training phase. Every month, they will have weekly reports and daily diary submissions along with the performance tracker on multiple criteria:
- Suggestions provided per month
- One Point Lesson
- Quick Kaizen done
- E-Tag (Breakdown Anomalies recording)
- TF1 – TF5 (Accident tracker)
- Violation Challan (PPE Adherence)
- Boost Learning (Online Learning modules – no of hours completed)
- Tri-monthly review with coaches / trainers / mentors / functional heads / Operations Head / WCM / EHS / HR to assess the progress of women trainees.
Taking up roles
Post their apprenticeship, the trainees will undergo interview with the functional head along with the HR to decide on their conversion from being an apprentice to an employee.
Junior level: Lateral hires
Women lateral recruitment happens through drives across automotive / process industries. They undergo 3-5 days of induction at the World Glass Complex and visit all the functions to understand the business. The classroom session of the Mirror plant is elaborately provided in all the sections with mid review to assess the progress of employees. They are then deployed in the different sections of the plant post the final review.
Employers must take note of global practices such as parental leave and flexible hours are incorporated into workplace functioning. The idea should be to make maximum use of human resources and make a shift towards a more gender inclusive workplace. Women excel whenever they have the opportunity and conducive conditions.
The operational guidelines for engaging women employees in the World Glass complex were released to reinforce Saint-Gobain’s commitment to engage women and encourage gender diversity in manufacturing. It helps to create a positive and supportive work environment for women employees, so as to encourage them to extend their service in night shifts and to ensure that all statutory provisions are complied with, and to protect the rights of women to work with dignity and respect.
‘We Care’ leave at WGC
The ‘We Care’ leave system was introduced as part of the Wellness Pillar to foster a pro-health and supportive eco-system. This initiative is applicable to women employees of Glass, Glass Solutions, Sekurit and HOHO. The objective is to make women in the workforce feel well-cared for and create a culture of care, acceptance, trust and empathy. As part of the ‘We Care’ Leave system, women can avail one day leave per month, ‘no questions asked’, over and above the stipulated leave. They can also work from home, post aligning with their respective managers.
In order to make women feel motivated, productive and comfortable at work, multiple measures have to be adopted and policies implemented. From civil Infrastructure to safety provisions, having an enabling work environment supports women to thrive in the workplace. As part of this, the following enablers are inculcated to make change management a smoother affair:
- Accommodation for three months for Tulir trainees and dedicated transport facility for the mirror teams in shifts
- Revamped civil infrastructure
- Women security in all shifts in the plant and escort during transportation
- Women paramedics in all shifts
Unconscious gender bias is defined as unintentional and automatic mental associations based on gender, stemming from traditions, norms, values, culture and/or experience. Automatic associations feed into decision-making, enabling a quick assessment of an individual according to gender and gender stereotypes. Organizations can take steps to counteract bias; even unconscious bias in an individual does not automatically translate into bias in the workplace.
Partnering with ‘Great Place to Work’, gender sensitization workshops were conducted for male employees starting from the leadership team to the functional and shift teams. But this is a work-in-progress, and it involves recurrent sessions on gender sensitization to make diversity initiatives sustainable and make unconscious gender bias preventable.
The ‘well-being study’ on women employees of the Mirror Line
A well-being study is currently being conducted to explore different expectations, needs and well-being implications of employees. The study will come up with suggestions and recommendations to make the work environment women-friendly, more likeable, and comfortable for them to work resiliently. This study aims to:
- Understand the socio-economic, functional, and emotional requirements of women employees at the Mirror Line.
- Map out their challenges (pain points and barriers) faced inside and out of the workplace, hindering efficiency and work-life balance.
Women need help, especially those just starting or changing careers. One valuable source of help is strong, effective mentors. Mentors can provide a great deal of help in guiding women through the new and unprecedented challenges they confront. One study found that 87 percent of mentors and mentees feel empowered by the relationship and reported greater confidence and career satisfaction. And, it turns out that mentees and mentors are both promoted far more often (5 times and 6 times, respectively) than those employees without mentors. A mentorship programme, ‘SG Sakhi’ for the Mirror Line women is planned to be rolled out. This is because these women need someone inside the factory for them to look up to for their holistic development of career and personal front.
Women empowerment with gender equality is the key to fundamental human rights. It is pivotal in our journey towards a more peaceful, progressive and sustainable world. Evolving–and closing the gender divide–is inevitable and is being made possible through equal opportunities and equal representation for women. Women are just as ambitious as men. But in many companies, they face headwinds that signal it will be harder to advance. And finally, it’s increasingly important to women that they work for companies that prioritize flexibility, employee well-being, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Young millennial women are even more ambitious and place a higher premium on working in an equitable, supportive, and inclusive workplace. So, diversity initiatives such as the all-women staff at the Mirror Line at Saint-Gobain India Pvt Ltd are step in the right direction to drive a sustainable inclusive growth in this 21st Century India.