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How an employee engagement programme turned WCL’s losses into profits

From being referred to the BIFR in 2013 for disinvestment, here’s how WCL used an employee engagement programme to fuel its growth story

  • WCL is emerging as a case study for PSUs on how persistent care and motivation of Human Capital can transform and put a company on growth trajectory

  • WCL has empowered a cross-section of workforce from General Mazdoor to General Manager to ideate, plan and implement initiatives as a team

New Delhi: “Truly a joy working in a company like this which provides personal care to its employees,” tweets Jitesh, an employee works as a Mechanical Fitter in WCL Underground Mine of Madhya Pradesh. “Motivated to perform with exuberance,” posts Sudhanshu, Mine Manager of WCL Gokul Opencast Mines of Maharashtra. These and many more posts on social media by WCL employees show they are taking to the micro-blogging platform to show their affection for their workplace. The official Twitter handle of state-run WCL (Western Coalfields Ltd) is called ‘Team WCL.’ Employees believe that ‘Humara Vekoli’ is their company and they are part of the WCL family. Sense of belongingness necessary for cultural change in any organisation has started becoming visible at WCL which can be felt and seen ubiquitously here, said a spokesperson for WCL.

WCL, a coal producing Subsidiary of Coal India Ltd, is emerging as a case study for PSUs and other organisations on how persistent care and motivation of Human Capital can not only transform and put a company on growth trajectory but can also bring a cultural change. A company which on the verge of collapse six years ago is now setting examples of growth with out-of-the-box thinking by its inspired and motivated employees.

WCL’s history

WCL came into existence in 1975 after the nationalisation of coal industry with the old legacy of large number of underground mines with adverse geo-mining condition. Despite constraints, WCL grew well till 2008. However, with exhaustion of reserves and high land rates, the company’s performance went downwards and plunged so much in 2013 that it was referred to BIFR (Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction), an agency responsible for looking into sick PSUs.

The upward trajectory

It is said that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. A new management with a new concept took the reins in the latter part of 2014 with a concrete plan and a multi-pronged approach for the revival of the company. First, making projects viable with land reforms to acquire and possess required land. Second, energising Human Capital to take up the challenge. Vision 2020 document was prepared and the plan started working well and the first new project started in January 2015. In just a year’s time, WCL started bouncing back with the opening of 12 projects and registered a growth in production.

Making employee engagement the cornerstone of growth

And the main ingredient of the turnaround was active employee engagement. WCL started fostering a feeling of belongingness. Gen-Nxt leadership development was introduced for young executives as a proactive succession planning strategy. A cross-section of workforce from General Mazdoor to General Manager was empowered to ideate, plan and implement initiatives as a team for the growth of the company. To its disposal, WCL used social media platforms to inspire and motivate its vastly-spread workforce.

Despite registering yearly growth in production, financial crisis was a persistent problem for WCL as the production cost was high due to most difficult geo-mining condition. Mission WCL 2.0 was launched in June 2018 with an idea to quickly have all fundamentals identified and strengthened. Again Human Capital was the key ingredient. More than 10,000 suggestions were received from employees through social media platforms and vast interactive sessions formed the base of the mission. With this, WCL inspired its workforce, built its fundamentals and action was started with a definite timeline. Year 2018-19 became remarkable when Team WCL not only surpassed its coal production target but also registered a phenomenal growth of over 15 percent with a positive Profit before Tax. The company could achieve production of 53.14 Million Tonnes against a target of 49.7 Million Tonnes with major contribution coming from 20 projects which opened in the last five years. This growing spree continued in 2019-20 also when WCL again surpassed its coal production target and registered the highest growth of 8.4 percent among all other subsidiaries of CIL. WCL recently kick-started Mission 100 Days roadmap prioritising initiatives for achieving beyond 75 MT coal production by FY 2023-24 as its contribution towards the ambitious 1BT target of Coal India Limited.

The flagship programme in line with Nation’s priority like Eco-Mine Tourism, Mine Water Utilisation as Coal Neer for irrigation and drinking purpose, sand from overburden at a cheaper rate for common man added further feather to the cap. WCL has pushed all boundaries to emerge back from ashes. Ground-level teams like Mitra, Shakti and Synergy work round the clock for a vibrant and engaged WCL.

Even during the current corona crisis, being a coal-producing subsidiary working as emergency services, the entire workforce is on its toes to fulfil the coal requirement in sync with the nations’ energy need. The top management is directly in touch with employees over the cellphone and social media. Employees have also been volunteering individually and collectively to help the needy and homeless with food, ration, masks and other essentials. WCL’s Corona Coal Warriors are working behind the curtain 24x7.