The world has changed dramatically in the last one month since our last update on the business readiness to supersede the impact of the novel COVID-19 virus. A rare disaster, a coronavirus pandemic, has resulted in a tragically large number of human lives being lost. As countries implement necessary quarantines and social distancing practices to contain the pandemic, the world has been put in a Great Lockdown. The magnitude and speed of collapse in the activity that has followed is unlike anything experienced in our lifetimes.
The COVID-19 pandemic is now no longer only a global health crisis but it is also a major labor market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people. According to the data released by the International Monetary Fund, we are experiencing the “Great Lockdown” in history.
Under the assumption that the pandemic and required containment peaks in the second quarter for most countries in the world, and recedes in the second half of this year, in the April World Economic Outlook we project global growth in 2020 to fall to -3 percent. This is a downgrade of 6.3 percentage points from January 2020, a major revision over a very short period. This makes the Great Lockdown the worst recession since the Great Depression, and far worse than the Global Financial Crisis.
India has been in lockdown since 25th March until 3rd May and since then India Inc. has opened war rooms where the C-Suite has one agenda in mind- getting back to the normal, post-lockdown.
Businesses need to think about the future — not just medium or long term, but also the next few weeks and months. We need an exit strategy or post-shutdown plan that protects our wellbeing even as it bolsters our economy.
However, according to the ongoing People Matters COVID-19, Impact & measurement survey, we found that 73 percent of the 175 participating companies do not have a post lockdown strategy to manage people and work. (Participate in the People Matters COVID-19, Impact & measurement survey and know-how India Inc is managing performance and appraisals of its employees).
Post-COVID-19 scenario: What leaders think
COVID-19 has completely changed the way organizations work and operate. More and more organizations are using digital platforms to operate and conduct business. All these new and upcoming changes have made businesses contemplate, how to do business without physically seeing or meeting each other.
An opportunity to increase flexibility to employees and reduce overall cost per employee:
Vipul Singh, Divisional Vice President and Head of HR, ADP India shares, “This swift change in businesses’ daily operations due to ongoing pandemic doesn’t have to mean, “no one is hiring.” In fact, no matter what economy we’re in, one thing is always certain: there are still companies hiring, some are even increasing their need for new employees. The COVID-19 pandemic is quickly changing how every organization is attracting, recruiting, and retaining employees on their virtual teams, making remote work the new normal. The major advantages would be that reduction in cost per employee in terms of facilities cost and increase in the flexibility provided to employees.”
Looking at talent from cost perspective:
Salil Chinchore, Head– Human Resources, Godrej Agrovet, shares, “Talent will be increasingly looked at from a cost perspective, especially in non-essential business categories. Companies will look at ways to reduce/control the fixed cost and undertake productivity measures to improve the balance sheet performance. The rewards strategy will be more benefits loaded than cash led. More emphasis will be given on non-monetary benefits and recognition than formal cash-based incentives.”
Rise of remote working & collaboration tools:
Post lockdown remote working policies will no longer be a perk but fully embedded within the company culture. There will be a need to quickly redesign and scale the organization’s IT infrastructure and operations to support this new way of working.
Aftab Ullah, Chief Operation and Delivery Officer at Brillio shares, “ Brillio’s infrastructure, communication, and collaboration platforms allowed the company to seamlessly move and operate remotely while ensuring the health and safety of its workforce, and business continuity for its customers. We have introduced a new function called the Office of Virtual Proximity, which will act as a pillar for the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond. This office will focus on how Brillio teams collaborate, and stay productive, engaged and responsible. We have already seen a 10 percent jump in productivity and a 20 percent jump in people's engagement as a result of the initiatives rolled out by this office. “
Challenges to return back to the normal: Post Lockdown scenario
Returning businesses to operational health after a severe shutdown is extremely challenging. Most industries will need to reactivate their entire model, even as the differential scale and timing of the impact of coronavirus mean that global supply chains face disruption in multiple geographies. It is not just that production has slowed down, even the demand across industries has slumped – we saw negative oil prices for the first time.
“For every organization, associate engagement and ensuring productivity are the primary concerns at the moment,” shares Vipul.
He further shares that it can be tough to engage employees, who are working from home. This can take a toll on the mental and physical health of a person, especially with the added uncertainty and stress that the lockdown has imposed upon all.
At ADP, we have initiated multiple engagement initiatives to keep our associates involved like they would be at a workplace from virtual team connections, calls on key deliverables, fun activities, physical challenges all with the goal to help enhance motivation, energy, enthusiasm, relationship building, and trust-building. Also, with associates' overall wellbeing on the mind, we partnered with specialists to support our associates virtually. We are also seeking support from some of the best physicians; pulmonologists and psychologists in India to provide on-call guidance in-case associates would want to reach out.
A lot of companies have rolled out a ‘Restart Manuals’ on how they plan to restart their operations after the COVID-19 lockdown:
For example, Toyota India has planned various measures for “starting from home to work” journey where they will assess the health status of each employee, ensures social distancing and safety at pick-up points, alternate seating in pick-up transportations, commutation walk path, and locker room usage, staggered canteen timings, sanitizing common touchpoints, etc. Temperature check would be necessary before pick-up and entering the work premises with compulsory usage of masks
Similarly, Tata Autocomp has laid down SOPs for post lockdown restart for multiple phases. For example, Before a day of opening phase includes email confirmation from employees on health and travel history, pest control and fumigation of the entire premises, transportation, a designated area for quarantine facility in consultation with medical experts, adequate supply of sanitizers and masks.
In terms of business continuity, the company will also:
- Earmark teams for specific tasks for timely and efficient completion of the desired work on Day one.
- Ascertain customers on the plans of reopening
- Discussion with contractors on status of availability of the manpower and if not plan of labor availability with numbers
- Liaison and discussion with suppliers on their stock position and capability to supply on day one and gradual ramp-up
Guidelines for preparing for a safe and sustainable restart
As we plan to restart life post lockdown, digital workforce and design will be essential components and play a vital part in success, growth, and innovative outlook. We must look at taking measures to move towards a more fluid, networked environment that empowers each worker to connect with the people and resources they need to deliver new value and connected experiences.
Aftab shares, “One of the crucial requirements for the digital workspace would be developing a digital workspace which aims at keeping employees in mind and being connected and making employee experience relevant. Employees need to learn and implement teamwork and strategies, which is a must for modern work experience.”
Further, This is the time to keep the consumer/customer and the employee at the center of all the decisions.
"Companies will have to be innovative in their thinking to ensure supply without compromising on cost and safety of their colleagues. Companies should take the entire ecosystem around the factories, local administration, suppliers, trade partners along with them while restarting the operations. Their concerns and fears should be addressed promptly,” shares Salil.
On the basis of our interactions with industry leaders and the People Matters COVID-19: Impact & Measurement survey, we suggest you following steps as you plan your post-lockdown strategy:
- Protection of Personnel
- Social distancing in travel to and from the workplace and during interaction with suppliers and those in distribution chain
- Business protection & continuity comes next
- Follow the guidance from Central Government, State Government. & WHO
- Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure preventive measures are executed in a systematic way
- Implement audit procedures to monitor and ensure safe practices are implemented
- Having an action plan in the event of persons feeling unwell in the workplace