As humanity tries to grapple with the full implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, corporations are thinking of how to continue business with employees working remotely and how to reconstruct businesses post COVID.
Especially during such times, it is essential that organizations and leaders recognize the importance of human connection and find ways to maintain continued collaboration. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Shikha Rai, Vice President & Head-HR, Canon India throws more light on the steps organizations should take to manage employee experience during a crisis.
Managing employee experience has especially become critical during the tough times we are going through on account of the Coronavirus epidemic. What are some of the ways employee experience is affected by a crisis?
The COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster the like of which has not been seen in modern history. As humanity is trying to grapple with the full implications of this pandemic, corporations are thinking of how to continue business with employees working remotely and how to reconstruct businesses post COVID.
The smile of the receptionist as you enter the workplace, the bustle of an office, the water cooler discussions, team meetings with debate & discussions and all such face-to-face interactions that bring people together and create a collaborative & engaging culture, is what one misses while working from home. Those who are used to the routine of coming to office everyday may find it difficult to adjust to the new method of working from home and may feel isolated and those whose everyday routine was to go to the field (sales & service folks) would be listless at home not knowing how to utilize their time productively. Employees working from home may be more susceptible to working for longer hours and at a more intense pace. Coupled with home interferences, this routine could become very stressful. Additionally, some projects may need the involvement of larger teams to come together, which might get affected while working remotely.
“However, the main anxiety that every person is facing today is when will business resume? With business transactions gradually coming to a halt, employees are anxious and eager to participate in the rebuilding of the economic activity. Organizations need to recognize this and engage each person in the process of reconstructing the business.”
How can organizations take charge when it comes to maintaining employee experience in a crisis?
In uncertain times like this, while organizations must continue to focus on business efficiencies, they must equally get reminded that even the best systems won’t work if the culture is hampered or employees are in distress.
Hence during such times, it is essential that organizations and leaders recognize the importance of human connection and find ways to facilitate continued collaboration and social interactions. They must ensure that technology operates smoothly and support employees working from home with tools that help them be productive. Leaders need to be creative in not letting the employee engagement dip. Upskilling and re-skilling should be encouraged.
Above all, organizations need to be transparent & honest and need to share the changing business story with the employees.
What are some of the initiatives that you have taken to maintain employee experience during these tough times? How have these initiatives helped your employees?
Canon India is certified to ISO22301 (Business Continuity Management) which equips it to be prepared in times of crisis. Our technology investments have been strong and give almost the same experience working-from-home as in office. Many digital platforms help employees to connect and collaborate with each other. In such times technology works as the backbone; however, it is important to use it effectively to reach out to each employee and engage them to stand collectively tall & strong in the crisis.
Our CEO is in regular touch with employees encouraging them to utilize this time to learn/ reskill and be healthy and to bring about a personal transformation. The monthly CEO address that in normal circumstances is an open-house was communicated digitally to all employees this month sharing the business situation that the company is facing.
The Health & Safety team is providing regular guidelines to all employees on health measures being taken by the organization, on ergonomics while working-from-home and various other processes that have been tweaked in the crisis situation. Communication, we feel is key in such times.
“This is also a good time to build knowledge on products and also polish other skills. The L&D teams are using technology to help do online classes for not only the employees but also the partner staff.”
Team meetings continue. We are using technology for voice & video meetings. It is so comforting to be able to see colleagues through such video connects. We have continued to honor the joining date of new hires. Even during the lockdown, we are doing our best to assimilate them into the organization’s culture by e-joining and hand-holding them digitally.
We are collecting Work-From-Home stories from our employees and publishing one story a day to encourage each other to look after one’s fitness, pursue hobbies and spend time with family while working from home.
How can businesses balance maintaining employee experience and business continuity in times of crisis? What are some of the 2-3 critical steps they need to take?
Business Continuity and all the business processes will be severely tested in this crisis. This would definitely put a strain on all the employees. Coupled with this, the sheer uncertainty of business is an added dimension.
If I were to choose the few things which the business needs to do, they are as follows:
- Make working from home as comfortable & seamless as possible with the help of technology
- Communicate, be transparent and build trust
- Make employees participate in resumption and reconstruction of business
- Empower employees to look after customers. At a time like this organizations need to support customers who are in essential services and go beyond the regular call. This will be remembered when things bounce back.
How can technology help in maintaining employee experience in times of crisis?
Technology is a very critical component in maintaining employee engagement in times of crisis. Seamless & secure technology, backed by strong remote support are factors that can help employees work efficiently from homes. Technology helps in quick dissemination of information helping reach out to all employees working remotely. Connecting employees on audio & video chats bring them together.
Also, no business works in isolation. The vendors, partners, banks, etc. who support are equally important and integrations with them also are critical in such times.
“The whole eco-system gets impacted and if the organization has a structured BCM (Business Continuity Management) plan which has been tested in good times, it comes handy in such a crisis.”