The pandemic forced organizations to relook at their infrastructure, benefits, culture & practices thoroughly. For organizations striving to scale to the next level of productivity and performance in the COVID-hit world, exploiting tech to build the social fabric that attracts and holds the best talent together is a must. The need of the hour is to integrate technology in a way that strengthens their culture and embeds trust and transparency.
In an exclusive interaction with us, Deepa Chadha, Senior VP – HR & Corporate Affairs, Vistara shares how Vistara took steps to build a culture that supported employees through the pandemic and some of the best practices to embed trust and transparency in the virtual working environment.
The toughest time is looming as companies have to ensure business continuity and productive output while building a culture that supports their workers amid the resurgence of the virus. How is Vistara doing that?
2020 and 2021 have been very different as far as the impact on the ground is concerned. 2020 was about anticipating a crisis and preparing for that. The entire message of our industry and organization last year was of protecting jobs and livelihoods. In addition, there were intervention measures to maintain BCP, balance the business and operations while ensuring safety of employees while motivating and reassuring them. There was a focus on both mental and physical well-being and ensuring facilities to work from home. So it was all about reimagining, repurposing, and reconstructing all the basics of the employee lifecycle bottom up. So the focus has been on ensuring how this becomes a way of life for an organization which is more experience and touch and feel driven.
However in 2021, the larger message was of saving lives, as compared to the 2020 message of saving livelihoods. The full might of the organization was put behind on ensuring the physical well-being of employees. So it was all about walking the talk about whatever preparation we had done in anticipation. Very early on, we put in place a cross functional team (CFT) for staff support comprising of all senior heads. The team connects daily to provide a 24*7 timely support to employees who are in critical need or whose families need critical help, providing post-COVID care, ensuring vaccination of all staff, and manage the timely situation on ground. Constant communication, building empathy and mutual respect for even our partners helped us a build a culture of support.
How can leaders make sure their cultures are adaptable now that it’s harder to solidify shared beliefs with a distributed workforce?
Organizational cultures are built on the tenets of firmly held and widely shared set of beliefs and passion. A strong, positive culture is not only a key driver of growth, but also helps in navigating difficult situations.
While it is steered by the leadership, it is the workforce that collectively imbibes it across teams, departments, and geographies.
I strongly feel that adopting an inclusive approach, involving employees in decision making and transparent, consistent communication go a long way in establishing a connection and sense of belonging amongst employees. It also helps in developing accountability and ownership towards the organizational objectives.
Especially in times of crises like the ongoing pandemic, a closely knit team, driven by common values is better equipped to navigate the uncertainties with more agility and resilience.
Communication definitely plays a pivotal role, hence, needs a lot of attention. Timely, transparent, empathetic, and engaging communication builds a sense of community – an absolute essential, especially while navigating a crisis.
At Vistara, we have always tried to maintain and strengthen a performance-driven culture, resulting in several new ideas getting executed and delivered. This has also been a key driving force behind navigating the ongoing crisis as well. Some of the examples are identifying and seizing new opportunities such as cargo and charter operations.
How can organizations integrate technology in a way that strengthens culture?
The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed how people worked, forcing millions to work remotely. With the shift of workplace from the physical office spaces to virtually connected work-from-home setups, technology has emerged as an enabler of seamless communication, collaboration and effective work-flow.
Advanced technologies like AI, AR, VR, IoT, Machine Learning etc. are gradually becoming the way we live, and there is tremendous potential to leverage in building an efficient workforce.
The idea is to identify key focus areas and implement the right technology solution. For instance, collaborative, real-time project management tools help a great deal in fostering a culture of teamwork.
Vistara has always been at the forefront in adopting new, innovative technologies and the pandemic has only fast-tracked our digital transformation. We have implemented various technology solutions that have automated key HR processes like talent management, performance management, employee referrals and many more.
What are some of the best practices you will advise to organizations to embed trust and transparency in the virtual working environment?
Trust and transparency, in many ways, are inter-dependent. In the context of an organization, it starts with knowing and understanding the employees, their issues, strengths, weaknesses etc. which will help in developing inclusive policies.
Communication is another very important aspect that helps build an environment of trust and transparency in the organization. It not only enables the leaders to build awareness about policies and decisions, but also helps gather feedback. Such effective communication also enables an environment that encourages employees to participate in decision making leading to a sense ownership amongst them.
How are you planning for the future amid predictions of phase three of the virus? What is the strategy and focus for the leadership to tackle challenges posed by the continuing waves of the virus?
We have an eye on the ball. While it is difficult to predict about the future, the processes, systems and resources that we have put in place are going to help us any such eventuality. The planet’s hope is vaccination and the recovery of the economy on the back of that is a silver lining. As a Tata brand, we were from the beginning, of the mindset that we are in this industry for a long term haul. So there would no knee jerk reactions on changing strategy. Our focus would be on managing this situation as it develops-addressing it with agility, care, and grace.