Decoding the Best Workplace with Bobby Kuriakose

Bobby Kuriakose, Director – HR, Forbes Marshall, speaks about what makes the company stand 5th in the “best workplace of India” race…

It’s one thing to have people just talk about your company being the perfect place to work and another thing to be rated by top names for it. Forbes Marshall, a leader in steam engineering and control instrumentation solutions especially in manufacturing and research and development, has made its mark as a trustworthy name, since 1965. Recently, two more achievements were added to their basket. The company was ranked the 5th Best Workplace for 2013-14 for the 5th time. It was also rated the Best in Manufacturing Industry in India. The survey was conducted by Great Place to Work Institute in association with The Economic Times. The Punekar speaks to Bobby Kuriakose, Director – HR, Forbes Marshall about their path to achieve the above mentioned successes.

It’s a neat feat to be rated the fifth place for Best Workplace for 2013-14 in India, that too for the fifth time. How do you rate this achievement, keeping the company in mind?

bobby KuriakoseGreat Place to Work Institute is a US-based firm and one of its arm is in India. They conduct such survey around 45 countries for evaluating models and their employment engagements. We have been participating in this survey since 2006. Three to four millions participants are involved in the survey, throughout the country. But we (Forbes Marshall) did not participate in this survey with the win in mind. The best part is that the survey does not rely on what HR has to say or provide. 66% is based on the feedback of the employees. We just sent our entire employee list and they directly got in touch with them. Around 420 people responded positively. In the first year, 33 companies were participating and we were in the top 25. We did not participate the next year and we made a few changes. Since last year, we have retained our 5th position. We also became the top company in the manufacturing sector. No other Pune company is in the top position. It is a good feeling to see such trust through the survey based on our own people’s response. The process and audit was done well and thoroughly.

According to you, which were the criteria on which you rose?

It has to be credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie.

You have been rated the Best in Manufacturing Industry in India – the only company from Pune. That must have been difficult to achieve.

We have few typical challenges. The first is to understand the business environment. Even if the going gets tough, we have to be sure of being transparent. We prefer sharing issues with the employees so that they are party to co-correcting. When you have such sharing between your employees, there is a certain accountability towards work. They feel it is their work. This is the biggest thing which many other companies do not do. The second thing is that while dealing with the employees, it is important to back them in their difficult situation. These days, quite a few employees come from nuclear families. So when in need, others from the company are there to help them. There is a paradigm shift here. This is one of our core values – family value. When things go wrong, we are there to help. This gives them confidence which is returned to us. Also, with the new generation, we like to give autonomy and independence. We give them space to perform. This is helping us. We are strong on CSR activities since 1978. In fact, we were among the first ones to start these social activities. We are consulted by many on how to go about these activities. We have, in fact, become a role model. Initially, when someone was asked of why s/he wants to join Forbes Marshall, it would be for good salary, stable job and so on. Now one of the reasons they also give is that they can contribute to society through our CSR activities.

How difficult is it to maintain the standards on which you have achieved both the awards?

Maintaining ethics is quite difficult. The second element is integrity. As far as possible, we do not encourage an approach to unethical work. We lose out on quite a few sales commission and so on but the standards are not difficult to maintain. Every one and a half year, we take feedback from our employees. We take value digression dilemma workshops.

You have second and third generation of the same family choosing to work with you. What could be the reason?

We have been in Pune for 65 years. When senior Darius Forbes started the company, he brought the land from the locals. Since these families would be losing the livelihood, he gave them the option of joining the company. Many joined in the supervision and shop floor. Since then, we have been recruiting through referral process which is given preference even today. But we give importance to reference only if the person is competent. In fact, we have members from the same family who we saw as kids. They would come for the family programmes organised. We even had three generations of the same family working with us.

To keep up the standards, what is in store for Forbes Marshall in the near future?

We have never tried for any awards. If we are recognised, it is good. If not, from the organisation’s point of view, we are still good. From HR point of view, we are a respected place to work. Vendors, customers and so on, see us as an organisation with a rich culture, trustworthy people, etc. We want to be a role-model as an organisation. And to sustain that image, we keep refining our own policies for our own prudence. We will keep trusting our own people, as we believe that any organisation is as good as its own people. If we want trust, we have to give trust. We are available to our people through various means. But there is still a long way to go.