Krity Sharma is the Chief People Officer at Mahindra Lifespaces. She is responsible for driving business results through People Strategy and the HR Team. She is passionate about building inclusive teams across cultures and designing strategically aligned HR programs. In an interaction with People Matters, she highlights the significance of technology during the current crisis, how Mahindra Lifespaces is adapting to new tech and why this is the perfect time for the HR function to shine.
As we rethink the workforce, we are also rethinking productivity and performance. What should these look like in the post-COVID world? What will the profile of the new workforce look like?
COVID-19 has established widespread and multidimensional uncertainty as to the new normal. Businesses are resetting their operations to meet shorter cycle planning and execution goals, and change appears to be the only constant. The skillset needed to achieve these business goals is also continually evolving, with ever-increasing emphasis on agility, responsiveness, and teamwork. Organizations will place a premium on ‘soft skills’ (networking and negotiation abilities tactics) while requiring basic digital fluency in areas such as remote work and collaboration. A breadth of skills and experience will emerge as an added advantage when layered on depth in industry-specific knowledge. Strong training capabilities, especially in the digital realm, will be needed to develop the workforce of the future. To align performance, companies will have to roll out strategy that continually strengthens employees’ digital and cognitive capabilities, and reinforces a culture of trust, adaptability and resilience.
What skills have emerged as important, and conversely, what skills are de-emphasized? How should employers change the way they hire and reskill?
Digital capabilities, adaptability and flexibility, creativity & innovation, critical thinking and emotional intelligence are emerging as important skills in a post-COVID workforce. Employees might find themselves working in more fluent teams where different people are taking the lead at different times. Managers and team leaders will need to motivate and engage remote teams efficiently. They will need to build a culture of collaboration, creative problem-solving and openness to out-of-the-box ideas.
Recruiters have had to quickly become tech-savvy and even creative while hiring talent, given how hitherto traditional face-to-face meetings have largely been replaced by teleconferencing and/or video conferencing conversations. The approach to the interview process is also undergoing shifts, with the integration of multiple online touchpoints that create opportunities for real-time evaluation and feedback. Online interviews can be more complex and nuanced and one needs to pay close attention to visual cues to create an atmosphere of trust and transparency.
Many employers have been forced to step up the level at which they use technology, with positive results that are moving them to embrace digital transformation. What will the new technological environment look like?
Many sectors (including real estate) that were traditionally not considered amenable to a virtual/remote workforce have had to quickly make the switch to digital-driven operations as a result of the lockdown. These businesses have worked on implementing flexible and scalable IT platforms to enable remote collaboration between geographically dispersed teams. The learning that has emerged from this process is that it is very much possible to shift to a more adaptable and agile workforce solution that is digitally enabled. In fact, many organizations have hard-pressed the accelerator on the adoption of technology platforms, resulting in months’ worth of digital advancement in weeks!
At Mahindra Lifespaces, our workforce made a complete transition to MS Teams just a few days into the first phase of the lockdown. We’ve facilitated appraisal discussions, board meetings and town halls with 500+ participants entirely online. We are even planning to organize our annual employee event, attended by employees from seven cities across India, wholly online!
We have deepened technology immersion in business operations as well. We have been driving ‘zero-touch’ sales with our customers and have seen growing comfort with the process. Moving forward, we can expect the new technological environment to support the integration of a digital thread across the entire product lifecycle, with a preference for digitally native partners, and the implementation of robust digital transformation strategies.
Some HR leaders have said COVID-19 is really the time for the HR function to shine. How can the HR function make its own adaptations? Will the CHRO rise to the same level of prominence that the CFO did after the global financial crisis?
The COVID 19 crisis has resulted in cross-functional collaboration, with no single area of dominance. HR leaders and managers have played the role of integrators, helping to ensure the safety and well-being of employees. HR teams have supported business continuity by driving training and well-being programs, ensuring meaningful employee engagement, and pivoting entire workforces to work productively from home. There have been immense learnings along the way in terms of how to build organizational resilience that can transcend these difficult times.
Business continuity plans have become the new operational norm, but that does not mean companies can continue with these policies and processes that were initially meant for contingencies. What are the new BCPs going to look like? What kind backup plan should companies develop next?
COVID-19 has affected companies in multiple ways, and with outcomes no one had anticipated. Even today, we are surrounded by uncertainty and a state of continual flux. The traditional approach to business continuity planning (BCP) is changing, moving away from predictive analysis basis past events to scenario planning that mitigates the risks of overweighting the present. Also, the frame of reference is now much shorter, given the lack of long-term visibility. In other words, a BCP plan that was hitherto reviewed annually will now be revisited at shorter intervals, perhaps even on a quarterly/monthly basis.