Tata Motors junks employee designations

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on January 27, 2018

GAJENDRA S CHANDEL, Chief Human Resources Officer, Tata Motors

Reinforces staff responsibility; makes performance tracking transparent, simple

Tata Motors has decided to do away with the system of designations for its 10,000-plus employees.

According to Gajendra S Chandel, Chief Human Resources Officer, this is part of an effort to create a flat organisation. In the process, designations such as vice-president, general manager, regional sales manager, and area manager will become history.

The new business card of employees will now have their name followed by the function/responsibility — for instance, ‘Sales – Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicles’.

This reinforces the individual’s responsibility and makes the performance tracking process transparent and simple. Chandel then cites another example to drive the point home.

A person heading a team will simply be called ‘Head’ followed by the function, be it in the Jamshedpur Plant or the Paint Shop in Pune.

For those who operate solo, their function/area of specialisation will be their calling card.

The Executive Committee, comprising Guenter Butschek, Managing Director, and his leadership team of some 10 people, will be the only ones to continue with their designations.

It is perhaps the first time that such a radical corporate hierarchical transformation is being attempted in India though this is not entirely uncommon overseas. “This was a challenging task and we had a lot of debate on how people would react to the move,” admits Chandel.

Yet, it was imperative for the company to go in for this kind of an overhaul, especially when it is banking on optimal employee productivity to meet the growing challenges in its commercial vehicle and car businesses. This can only be done when the workforce focusses on the task ahead instead of constantly wondering, “I am DGM now; when will I become GM or VP”.

While the company has made its move, it remains to be seen how people within Tata Motors react, given that designations are a big deal in the Indian context.

New hierarchical plan

The flat organisation move comes only a couple of months after Tata Motors put in place a new hierarchical structure reducing the number of reporting layers from 14 to five. The idea was to make people more accountable and sent a strong message that the days of taking it easy were over.

Will all this affect the overall Tata brand image of being a benevolent employer? Chandel does not subscribe to this view. “We can still attract a different kind of talent, which is more competitive and can deliver. Performance eventually matters by the end of the day,” he says.

He may be right. After all, the corporate workplace has changed over the years with younger people keen on making a mark quickly.

Published on June 08, 2017

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