Good ole oil

While ONGC is in a high-risk business, its main attraction remains a low-risk, high-return PSU lifestyle.

When the Oil and Natural Gas Commission was born in 1960, exploration was a dirty business in inhospitable terrain. It's now done with joysticks and computers. From a commission, ONGC has morphed into India's largest profit-making company. What has not changed is the way job seekers view it: A great provider of benefits.

The survey ranks it 13th best upon consideration of all attributes, but the ranking shoots up to 10th when only benefits and compensation are taken into account. Respondents did not rate it highly for prestige, training, career growth and job content, even in its limited field, so on these lists its rank slips down to 18th/ 19th.

R.S. Sharma, ONGC's CMD, sums up the caring attitude: "More than the employees themselves, I am concerned about their spouses and children." When he became ONGC CMD three years ago, he was unimpressed with the standards of living of the workforce and the upkeep of the company's townships. He set about trying to improve the quality of life. But ONGC is not all about perks: The performance-linked variable pay makes up 40-70 per cent of the take-home pay of executives.

In the exploration business, inputs are deterministic but output is probabilistic. So the HR policy does not encourage workaholics. Ultimately, whether ONGC pursues an oil well is based on the judgement of the employees, so their development is important.

ONGC encourages them to take time off to go for specialised courses and even pays for them. "Not just ONGC but top PSUs are the grooming ground for talent in the core sector," says A.K. Balyan, Director, HR. "The top technical people in the private sector are all poached from government companies."

Very few leave the company, and ONGC's attrition rate is less than half a per cent. Why? Check out Sharma's key aide and Chief Engineer (Production) D. Adhikari (a budding author now looking for a publisher) or Mumbai-based DGM HR D.D. Misra (an avid photographer). Few in ONGC would be surprised if Adhikari doesn't make it big in the company. While a private competitor would probably offer a faster track, the burnout rate would also be higher.

So, while ONGC is in a high-risk business, its main attraction in the employee market remains a low-risk, high-return PSU lifestyle.