HR Policies At The Taj: Lessons To Emulate

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 9183 , Published on 09 February 2012

On 26/11/2008, the employees of Taj hotel were unaware of the fact that they had to undergo the acid test that day, putting at stake not only their expertise and learning but the values of Taj, jeopardizing their  life for the call of their duty. The courage, valor and commitment showcased by the employees set the whole world lauding the values which the Taj group had imbibed in them. World renowned institutes like Harvard devoted to the intensive study of the factors underlining this behavior of the employees.  There were some questions that haunted them which even the managers at Taj failed to answer like why employees preferred to stay at their duty and help the guests instead of fleeing through the emergency exits? What made them stand to their commitment in such calamity instead of succumbing to the natural instinct of saving their lives? The underlying principle of “Atithi Devo Bhava” was so beautifully showcased by the employees. These unraveling researches finally ended up at its HR practices, which helped the researchers to fathom answers to many of these questions. The answers based on the HR policies of the organization were intriguing. Let’s have a closer look on some of them.

HR policies

The studies on Taj HR policies revealed its sound recruitment policies, the well-planned training programmes and emphasis on practical application than the theoretical knowledge. Since its inception, it has always adopted an employee-centric culture wherein it strives to develop organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) in it employees and that has been responsible for the utmost care undertaken by the employees for the safety of their guests. The Taj Charter corroborates this fact. Some of its postulates include:

1) Taj family considers every employee as an important member.

2) It aims to acquire, retain and reward the talented people from the industry.

3) It emphasizes on a formal communication channel to promote transparency in the overall working of the organization.

(Source: )

Below are some of the points that explain its distinguished policies:

  • Hiring policies: The candidates are gauged on their value system and trained for 18 months which is 6 months more than the industry standard. The hiring process particularly looks for employees on their values and whether the recruits would be able to adapt to the culture of the organization. It is believed that the employees can be trained to be better chefs or waiters, but they cannot be taught to be good individuals. So the organization expects an individual to possess good values to become a part of the Taj family.
  • Honing leadership skills: Apart from the normal training sessions to inculcate leadership skills in the employees, each employee is given an authority to take the decisions pertaining to his work and this empowers them and helps in building a leader in all. This was primarily the reason why each one of them could impromptu take the decisions during the attack, when none of them had been trained for such a situation.
  • Strong talent management: To upgrade the “Taj standards” to an international level, it ensures the employees are trained not just on the area of expertise but all the related functions. Also, it keeps track of their performance to assess and future career planning for them. This helps to embed belongingness amongst the workforce as they understand that their careers are safe with their employers.
  • Individualism of HR department: Unlike many organizations, who consider HR as a support function, Taj amalgamates the HR practices with all the other activities taking place within it. This helps to make HR an integral part of the organization.
  • TPP (Taj people philosophy) : Designed by Bernard Martyris, it is termed as ‘the Womb to Tomb Approach’ as it encapsulated all the essential aspects of an employee since his induction to his superannuation. All these aspects could be broadly categorized into 3 parts comprising of:
  • 1) Learning & development
  • 2) Works systems
  • 3) Welfare policies for employees

A major emphasis is made on performance management, for which the balance score card (BSS) was introduced. Under this, the major focus is to align the individual’s performance with that of the organization.  Employees at every hierarchical level are assigned concrete and well defined targets and then their performance is tracked to find out the deviations, this forms the basis for assessing the employees.

  • Another salient feature of TPP is the ESTS (Employee Satisfaction Tracking System) which involves conducting surveys to elicit response from the employees and the records collected are used to rate the overall satisfaction level of the employees. The group targeted to achieve 100% satisfaction in the course of its operation, which meant it regularly looks into the employees’ concerns and strives to address them.
  • A 360-degree feedback system was adopted wherein the employees, including the managers and departmental heads are evaluated not just by their bosses or peers but also their immediate subordinates. The employees are counseled at a personal level and apprised of where they fell short of the expectations and how to go about it. Thus the feedback session is not just limited to assessing the employees but guides them to prepare a roadmap for the future endeavors and hone their skills.
  • STARS (Special thanks and Recognition System) was designed keeping its core value in mind ie the customers of an organization can be satisfied by it only when its employees are satisfied. So the STARS was aimed at recognizing and rewarding employees who showcased excellent performance at their work. The employees are awarded points and based on the points accumulated within the predefined time frame, they are promoted successively to various levels. A distinguishing feature was that the employees were not just assessed on their performance but also on parameters like honesty, trustworthiness, concern for the environment, team spirit, cooperation etc. Besides, appreciations from the customers also fetched points. In all, there were 5 levels.

          Level 1 : Silver level was attained when the employee accumulated 120 points within 3 months.

          Level 2: Gold Level was attained by employees who accumulated 130 points within 3 months from the date of achieving the silver level.

          Level 3: Platinum level attained by employees scoring 250 points, 6 months from attainment of level 2.

          Level 4:  Membership of COO club on scoring points in the range of 510-760.

          Level 5: Scoring points above 760 would enable membership to MD’s club.

  • There are forums for the employees to voice their recommendation or compliment their colleagues. It is mandatory for the review committee to reply to the employees’ suggestions within 2 days or he shall be allotted ‘default points’.  These methods are primarily focused to boost the motivation levels of the employees and to improve job satisfaction.

 Overall outcomes:

  • The HR practices followed by the Taj group had a great impact on the employee commitment and ERR (Employee retention rate) of Taj group was the highest amongst all its competitors. The policies were so well planned and implemented that they drove the employees beyond their duties which was totally unexpected of them as was in the case of 26/11.
  • In 2002, Taj Group was conferred HERMES Award for its innovative HR practices.
  • With the implementation of STARS, there was tremendous improvement in the service standards and also the customer satisfaction level.

From the above study, it can be concluded that “people” are the most important resource of an organization and the edifice of performance of different departments and the organization as a whole builds on it. The sooner an organization accepts this fact, the better it is. Taj group had always stressed on the employee-focused policies and that was primarily responsible for the job commitment shown by the employees and explains why they considered the safety of the guests beyond their own lives.

To wrap up, this article not just intends to emphasize the importance of HR in an organization, but also that the HR policies should be fabricated such that they are synchronized with the vision and values of the organization. The success of any organization would depend upon the extent of alignment of its policies with its vision. Also, it is important that these values should be ubiquitous in work environment so that they become ‘the second behavior’ for the employees like it happened in the Taj when the employees stuck to their organization’s values even at the cost of their lives. The unprecedented example set forth by the employees of Taj has a deep lesson to be learnt by one and all.

This article has been written by Ela Koshal from Welingkar Institute of Management.

Image: ddpavumba /


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