Challenge of Handling Non-Regional Workforce of Migrants

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on October 09, 2015

Handling human capital is always a challenge. With the increasing difficulty in accessing talented manpower for Industries especially MSME’s, handling workforce and retaining them is a significant challenge. This article is about the migrant workforce, the challenges which they face in an unfamiliar environment and the pros and cons of recruiting them. This brief article was purely based on the experiences and interaction with such migrant workforce and their employers/supervisors in the context of Coimbatore based MSMEs.

MSME development is vital to the economic growth of our nation and for that matter any country. In general, MSME Sector is a labour intensive and the quality of its output directly depends on the skill level of its operators. Given this background and the shortfall persisting in human capital, especially for the front line workforce, industries are more open for recruiting operators, janitors, material handlers etc., even by ignoring factors such as nativity, language, education etc.,

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Our perception from dealing with today’s workforce is that they focus more on the wages and less on the physical efforts required by the job. They are highly adaptive to various locations and are easily migrating, generally as a group. Coimbatore had enhanced this possibility further with its year round neutral climatic conditions that best suits all walks of life. Coimbatore became one of an exponentially growing industrial and services hubs which is attracting employees from across the country. Such situation had eventually become bless in disguise for employers as well, since they have ready access to a pool of talented workforce but unstable as they are migrant.

Need for Migrant Workforce

Order position of MSME’s may not be uniform throughout a year and in such cases it is not affordable for companies to employ and pay on a continuous basis. In a blog written by Mr Naveen Narayanan, Global Head – Talent Acquisition, HCL Technologies, he explains that companies started focusing on the outcome of their process rather than how the work is being done. He also added that temporary employment is a fast growing sector amongst labour market. In our experience, when it comes to employing contingent workers, companies/outsourcing agencies generally resort to recruiting migrant workforce. While State Labour laws are guarding the basic interest of workforce through minimal wages, mandatory ESI policy and periodic factory inspector visits, institutions which employs such migrant workforce tend to capitalize their ignorance.

Getting workforce in short notice, temporary layoffs to manage lesser order position, flexible timings or extended working hours to manage peak load, cost effectiveness , access to mixed talent are some of the advantages of recruiting migrant workforce by most companies. Usually, MSME’s are operating in an uncertain supply chain which forces them to adopt flexible timings and/or extended workhours to manage the deadlines.

Mr Prabhu, a Contract Supervisor in a MSME shared his experience as “When it comes to recruiting manpower, we generally prefer ITI/School Passed Out Youths from Odhisa, Bihar, UP etc., These people are ready to work without restrictions on time. As long as they are paid for their working hours, they are ready to work continuously for upto 12 hours at least thrice a week. This is profitable for us also.”

Factors Influencing Migrant Workforce

Based on our interaction with few migrant workforce, 1) Accommodation, 2) Commutation, 3) Cooking Facility and 4) Respectable Earnings are the four deciding factors for a migrant workforce to stick on to an employer. Though many complaints about language barriers and disregarding they face from the native people, their choice to stay with an employer was usually based on the aforesaid factors. Further whenever such people are recruited, they are usually recruited in mass along with their companions to enable them to stay together and stick to the organization.

Usually their vacations are either twice a year or once a year for a period of minimum one month. Also few companies disburse their salary in an accumulated manner during their vacation to enable them go back home with a considerable earnings.

We had an interaction with the head of one of the leading management association at Coimbatore. He shared an experience of one good practice which his company introduced and practices for handling north Indian workforce. A prescribed set of Tamil words were chosen and the workmen were taught to learn them on a daily basis. These few words were adequate for them to work under someone’s supervision. Similarly their Supervisors were also taught to learn few basic Hindi words which enabled them to get the job done through them. This also had eliminated language barriers and also motivated them to stay with them for a long period.

Challenges in handling Migrant Workforce

Language and Culture are two significant barriers while dealing with migrant workforce. Taking them along with any organizational practice or bringing a change in an organization by partnering them is a tedious task. Also, there was always a threat for non-native people due to their minority and in some cases it was due to induced tension by miscreants for various reasons. Coimbatore was once into a situation few years back, where there was no security for north Indian workforce due to stereotyping of their community based on one heinous crime and an isolated incident committed by a North Indian youth. It had completely shadowed the positive aspects of such workforce and led to a challenge for their basic survival. Hate crimes at Maharashtra & Delhi during 2008 & 2014 which attracted nationwide protests were examples of such insecurity concerns. At times, this may even cost their whole business for MSME’s who were solely dependent on such migrant workforce.

Mr Jagadish Prabhu, a Senior Manager in a reputed Corporate shared his significant challenge “Enforcing discipline amongst the migrant workforce is the hardest thing to do. Even repeated instructions and orders had not shown much improvement. As long as they are supervised, they abide by the rules. However, when it comes to quantum of work, they always lead and I’m surprised how it is always possible for them to work so hard at a stretch tirelessly. Their work intentions were purely motivated by money but not workplace improvements”

Mr Mariselvam, a Supervisor in a MSME had commented “Initially there will always be a difficulty in aligning them with our working style and expectations, as is the case with even native people however the difference is only language and accordingly their period of accustoming to the working environment extends. In my opinion, this is the only challenge with respect to recruiting/handling the non regional workforce.”

Advantages of Migrant Workforce

A recent article published in “The Hindu” on 02nd Oct’15 under the title “ Kannada Classes for migrants in Bengaluru” explains, that in order to benefit the large number of non-Kannada Speaking people, Kannada speaking classes is being organized and conducted by Kannada Development Authority(KDA). They are focusing primarily over people staying in apartments and accordingly it is supporting residential complexes associations with resource persons and even the rent for coaching space, in case the complex doesn’t have adequate space. This emphasizes the benefits of migrant workforce at a State level It should be noted that these classes were focused at educated working population for whom common languages like English/Hindi could be adequate for survival, especially at cities like Bengaluru.

They also offer a competitive environment at workplace. Research proves that contract labours are more productive than the regular employees (Meenakshi Rajeev, 2009). Further this brings a positive change in the society and culture as well by giving importance to or knowledge on festivals or traditions of other states eg., Holi, Rakhi etc., Although this point has its corresponding negative aspects, in our opinion the benefits are at large.


While it is imperative that recruiting non-regional workforce will usually facilitate MSME’s, challenges in retaining and handling them requires special efforts and attention. In our experience, we have always seen recruiting non-regional workforce enables MSME’s to attain more productivity by inducing a healthy competition within the organization. The associated risks as discussed above are inherent, which MSME’s are expected to consider along with any other business uncertainty to tackle them. Hence, it is essential that migrant workforce should be given equal employment opportunities and they should be recruited only after feasible background verifications (if they were employed elsewhere already in that region). This had always enhanced the skill and outputs of the native workforce and ultimately will benefit MSME’s.

This article has been authored by Vinothkumar Balan from PSGIM, Coimbatore


1) Abhijeet Biswas, Opportunities and Constraints for Indian MSMEs, International Journal of Research (IJR) Vol-2, Issue-1 January 2015

2) Stephanie Reyes, 2015. Contingent Workforce Pros and Cons - Part 1, accessed on 26.09.2015

3) Naveen Narayanan, 2013. Contingent Worker - A Permanent Solution, accessed on 26.09.2015.

4) Meenakshi Rajeev, (2009),"Globalisation and labour market flexibility: a study of contractual employment in India", International Journal of Development Issues, Vol. 8 Iss 2 pp. 168 – 183.

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