Human resource challenges in the coal industry

Human resource challenges in the coal industryThe coal industry is an industry of high economic importance globally. The industry contributes to economic development not only directly but also through the growth of many other industries where coal is the basic elements like steel and power industries. The industry, however, faces some major challenges including environmental concerns and restricted availability of coal; but the HR problems do occupy the core of problems because human resources serve as the basis of development in any industry. The growth of an industry depends largely on the quality of human resources employed and the effectiveness of HR strategies to manage these human resources. A few HR challenges in the coal industry have been discussed here.

Workforce management in the coal industry

As far as the coal industry is concerned, workforce planning and management is a serious issue across the world. The demand for coal has increased manifold over the years and it is still very much in excess to the supply of coal leaving a wide gap between demand and supply. In order to increase the supply, mass recruitment has been done in the sector but still, the production of coal cannot meet the demand. Thus, the coal industry is confronted with the problem of workforce planning as it is still a great dilemma whether adding further workforce will be of help or it is a matter of lack of productivity.

Shortage of skilled professionals

When one thinks of the coal industry, the very first image that comes to mind is the unskilled labours working into dark deep tunnels. But the coal industry requires skilled professionals as well as engineers, geologists, accountants, and environmentalists etc. The challenge that confronts coal industry is to hire these professionals and retain them for long.

Poor working conditions create problems in hiring

One of the major constraints of the coal industry relates to tough working conditions it offers to the workers. Coal is still largely extracted in a haphazard manner and not much is done for the health and safety of workers in most firms. The workers of the coal industry need to work deep below the ground where there is an infestation of poisonous gases leading to health problems. Moreover, many times there are problems with proper lighting and water supply too in the work areas making their work life more miserable. The safety measures are also not up to the mark in most coal mines causing high incidences of accidents. The unhealthy and risk-prone working conditions are one of the primary reasons that the coal industry faces challenges of securing the required workforce both in numbers as well as skills.

Labour turnover and absenteeism

The coal industry also suffers from quick labour turnover and absenteeism; one of the major reasons being the nature of the job.  The workers are required to do a repetitive job in an unhealthy environment with no means of entertainment. All these factors result in high labour absenteeism and turnover. In addition to this coal industry largely employs migratory workers from rural areas, many of them belonging to an agricultural background. These workers go on leave while sowing and harvesting seasons or whenever they need to meet their families. This negatively influences labour productivity and delays industry growth.

Labor unrest

The coal industry also faces HR challenges of trade unions and labour unrest. There are frequent strikes showing labour discontentment in the coal industry. The basic demands always being the improvement in working conditions and wages, failing to which the management faces labour unrest, lack of commitment and morale, frustration and loss of productivity. There is always a tussle on bargaining powers between workers and the organization. The workers demand more money while the firm demands more productivity. Since the coal industry suffers from low labour productivity, this tussle mostly goes on and the balance only can ensure harmony in the organization.


Ankita Agarwal

Analyst at Project Guru
Ankita is working with the editorial board of Project Guru as a Research Analyst and Writer. With Masters in Commerce and Business Studies, Ankita learned much of what she knows about management through experience. She has previously worked in various financial institutions like Birla Global, HDFC Ltd. and Citi Financial. She is self-motivated and writes for the Knowledge Tank section of Project Guru. She has authored more than 80 articles so far in Human Resources Management, Strategic Management, Finance and Marketing. She likes to pen her thoughts about the latest issues gripping these areas across the world.

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