Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Are Bankers ready for Appraisals?

As part of the ongoing wage revision talks between Indian Banks Association (IBA)  and workmen representatives, it is reported that the IBA is keen on introduction of concepts like Cost to company (CTC), Fixed pay and Variable pay. These concepts are in vogue in private sectors and more popularly in IT companies, where these are used to reflect the measure of employee's effectiveness. To gauge this measure there is an elaborate system of defined and accepted Performance Appraisal Process which are used to continuously monitor the performance of the employees as against their goals defined at the beginning of every year. Though there are still lacunas and challenges in this system, the private sector is well equipped to handle them to a reasonable satisfaction of all stakeholders.

The attempt of the Nationalized banks in India to sneak in this concept could be viewed from many perspectives. While it no doubt projects the forward thinking of the Bank management to keep pace with  other sectors' practices, one is not sure whether this is an attempt to remain on par with their private brethren or is this an attempt to force an opinion of the collective bargaining capabilities of the workmen. The later, if true, would make Chanakya blush with the wily technique adopted. At the same time one also wonders whether the IBA is aware of the shortcomings prevailing in the service conditions and definitions of  workmen, which makes it well nigh impossible to usher in this structure.

For instance, a part of  'Variable pay' is normally related to the performance of the employee and is measured from time to time by the various activities performed. The evaluation and its results will be periodically appraised to the employee. In Banks under the existing situation, how this could be practiced? How can the performance of an employee who handles a customer facing Savings Account counter be gauged? Is it with the number of correct transactions being posted or incorrect transactions? If correct, then will come the question 'is it not a part of the employee's duties to make correct entries for which he/she is being remunerated'? If it is incorrect, under the current banking scenario it will open up another Pandora's box, as we have a maker - checker system under which an official is to check and authorize every transaction. This will in turn put the onus on two and not one employee. In such cases, how can the performance, rather the lack of it, be shared?

This brings us to the question of reviewing the currently absent basic responsibilities, time bound assignments, expectations, a system to measure the effectiveness of the duty performed  that need to be defined and in place before we embark on this exercise. In the current scenario the workmen have a defined working hours and how will he be declared as having done an incomplete job, when he has worked through the defined working hours but the job remain incomplete due to reasons beyond his control? In private sector, this is handled in a more assertive way of "he shall complete his assignment irrespective of time"! This is a typical canyon that divides these two sectors and there are many such which will be huge stumbling blocks in implementing the fancied proposal of IBA. The need of the hour is to resolve and reduce such gaps first before proceeding to next steps.

Performance Appraisal System is a huge process which has to be clearly defined qualitatively and quantitatively and agreed. If this humongous process is worked around and agreed the IBA could justifiably feel proud of having taken a major stride in its efforts to modernize the system. But, given the prevailing realities, even at the risk of being dubbed a pessimist , it appears it should take a long time, say another one or two bipartite talks, to bring people around.

When the pay scales are connected to the performance, the workmen would start realizing the alternative and more transparent avenues for climbing the ladder. With the performance and recognition comes the direct conduits to the management which opens up greater transparency in the system of promotions and transfers. With such changes the role of  representatives will take a paradigm shift from banal issues to only the wage negotiations of the workmen. It would be interesting to hear the representatives on this diminished role.

Considering these, it appears the banks are not (yet) in a position to embrace this revised process. If attempts are made to exert pressure overtly or covertly to push through this without resolving other related issues, it will be akin to putting the cart before the horse and playing directly into the hands of the vested interests, waiting for triggers.

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