The financial sector across the globe was already struggling and then came the COVID-19 outbreak, bringing more complex challenges. Well to begin remote working and financial sectors, areas like fraud and cybersecurity become the top concerns.
To understand how the financial sector is coping with the pandemic’s impact, People Matters interviewed Agnel Victor, Head, Human Resources, Avendus Group.
What has been the impact of the pandemic on the financial services sector? How are the business and talent priorities of companies in this space changing? How has Avendus Capital adapted to them?
The impact of the pandemic on BFSI has been huge. Never in the history of financial services in India, would it have been considered possible to operate in a ‘work from home’ mode. But the belief has been turned on its head, with so many of the core established beliefs in the ways of working, both for the organization and for the workforce, having undergone a massive change.
It has been simply amazing how well both, the organization and the workforce, have adapted to the changing environment.
The game-changer that has made this possible is of course technology, but the differentiator between organizations that have navigated through the turbulent waters more easily than others is the level of engagement within the talent teams.
Those that found it easier were the ones with a higher connect with their teams.
At Avendus too, we are fortunate to have a highly engaged team of knowledge workers. Many in our workforce are young professionals who returned to their hometowns but haven’t missed a beat in continuing to stay as engaged as before. We continue to find innovative ways to engage with our colleagues – whether it was through virtual town halls, talent evenings, yoga sessions, knowledge sharing hubs or wellness helplines.
As we continue to source talent, more than ever, we have strengthened our focus on ensuring the right cultural fit. We also spend a lot of time and effort in the onboarding process, given that it is all done virtually. Ensuring that newcomers settle into the organization and feel a sense of belonging is our priority.
How are you preparing your organization’s workforce for the new reality of work?
At the organization level, we implemented a framework that has our people at the centre of all our decisions. Some of the principles we continue to stand by are as follows:
- Employee First: We were able to execute our plans and ensure a seamless transition due to employee collaboration. We put our people first in all decisions and focused on proactively solving for issues they faced while working from home.
- Communication focus: We understand the need for employees to be aware about what’s happening – we have emphasized on regular and focused communication to keep employees informed and aligned to our mutually agreed upon plans and expectations.
- Formulated a core team: We have a central BCP (Business Continuity Planning) team and a COVID-19 Response team comprising senior management members, to provide reassurance and guidance through regular touchpoints, enabling quick decision making and greater buy-in from the workforce.
- Be proactive: We don’t wait for the right time or watch what our peers are doing and then follow. We are proactively doing what is best for us and our employees. We are trying to think ahead, anticipate scenarios and take early action.
Then at an Individual level we are focusing on a few key pillars:
- Trust: We believe that the key to success in this COVID-19 era and beyond is Trust. We set expectations with our employees through multiple touchpoints (town halls, group discussions etc) and trust them to deliver. We provide them with the flexibility they need to balance the needs of the family and work.
- Training & Engagement: We have transitioned our training and engagement initiatives to a virtual mode and hope to execute it seamlessly to deliver the same delight as we would in a face to face environment.
- Technology: We have emphasized focus on technology and communication platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Given the nature of the business, we facilitated the transition of specific technology solutions and office infrastructure (desktops, ergonomic chairs, third party tools etc) to enable employees to work from home.
Overall, to facilitate the transition back to work – whenever it happens, we have created a “Back to Work” blueprint and put in place a staggered plan to facilitate it. All decisions that we take will be governed by our core principle of “Being Deliberate, Not Brave.”
How are you restructuring Avendus Capital’s workforce to match the business needs? Given the emerging trends in the sector, how is the job landscape shaping up? Which roles are in demand?
The Avendus team is made up of about 350 employees who are highly skilled at what they do. As such, we have restructured ourselves more from a ‘ways of working’ perspective rather than an organizational/workforce structure. In order to ensure clear sync between workforce and business needs we are focussing on two key aspects:
Connectivity and availability: We have provided our employees with the infrastructure, technology support and multiple touchpoints to stay connected. As such business requirements are clearly communicated, tracked and executed.
Striking the right balance: In order to facilitate business continuity, we moved to the staggered work approach in conjunction with Business Leaders before transitioning to complete work from home. Whether in staggered work teams or virtual teams – we operate on a model where we have the right mix of employees to perform tasks as per business requirements.
In terms of hiring, it is more focussed and conservative. Specialists will continue to command a premium in our space.
What are the gaps holding people back from making the transition between obsolete roles and in-demand roles? How can these gaps be closed?
In this transition to the new normal, it will be the ability to leverage technology that will distinguish between those who make it and those who do not. Of course, it also needs an orientation of adaptability and the willingness to embrace change – two key attributes that the organization must inculcate in its workforce.
How is the role of HR Changing with the pandemic? What do you think are the core competencies the HR of the present and the future need to build?
Firstly, the role of HR has been amplified as an outcome of the pandemic. I believe that some of the core competencies that HR teams need to build are:
- Crisis response Orientation
- Flexibility and Adaptability
- Technology focus
- Culture custodians in a virtual world
As everybody in organizations learns to adapt to a “new normal” the role of HR will morph significantly in delivering experiences that build trust, and embody the culture and fun elements in its initiatives.