Chaitali Mukherjee is a Partner with the Management Consulting division of PwC India, and leads the People & Organization Practice for India. She brings 19+ years of extensive experience spanning across consulting and business. Mukherjee specializes in Business Strategy, Leadership Development and Organization Transformation with extensive International Business and General Management experience. She brings her own leadership experience of having led businesses in India and across the Asia Pacific and Middle East region.
In this exclusive interaction with People Matters, Mukherjee shares her views on how the world of work has changed since COVID-19 and what the new workplace would look like.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
The world has changed and so is the world of work. How do you see the rise of a new workplace?
The COVID-19 era has brought unprecedented changes for organizations and has challenged the way organizations have been thinking about the way to get work done. Whilst in the past, organizations were thinking about the newer ways of working, the COVID-19 crisis has created the burning platform to shift to the newer ways of working, including building newer ways of working. The new workplace is neither what it is today nor is it going to be what may have been in the current circumstances. It will have to be a newer, more matured and a more inclusive workplace that takes into account the needs of the organizations, the ‘human experience’ that’s right for the employees and at the same time, the motivations to maintain the balance between the employer-employee relationship.
What's your take on how can organizations prepare their workplace and workforce for the ÔNew Normal’ in the post COVID-19 era?
To prepare for the new normal, organizations would need to redefine the work itself that gets done and where the work gets done. Depending upon the work and the tools required, it will be important to understand the environment that’s required to deliver on it and that will govern the workforce models as well as the workplace dynamics. It will be critical that organizations align their systems, processes and practices, workforce models as well as the policies and employment contracts.
The important thing to keep in mind about the new normal is that it is not the short term thinking but the short, mid and long term thinking that leadership will need to keep in mind at the same time. There are immediate problems to be addressed, but whilst addressing them/ reacting to them, organizations can’t take the short term lens. They will have to continuously think of the repercussions of their decisions/ actions on their brand, employees and the ecosystem in the mid to long term.
HR seems at the forefront of many challenges as organizations plan to reopen. What are the top pain points that HR should gear up to tackle when it plans a workplace post-COVID-19?
This is one of the most critical times for HR. The need to manage the anxiety, gear for operations as well as ensuring that organizations are able to remain agile for the new normal are going to be some of the most critical problems for HR to solve. Most importantly, keeping the communication going, ensuring that the organization manages to balance the short term and the long term employee and organization needs and ensuring that they enable the agile operating model for the organization would be critical.
The role of HR can be divided into three core streams:
- Enabling the survival: Taking charge of health, wellness, communication and engagement of the employees to manage these challenging times
- Adapting to grow: Focusing on workforce model, costs, enabling an adaptive workforce/ workplace model and ensuring productivity and performance are designed for the new normal. This would also mean defining the policies, processes and incentives to manage the new operating model
- Revival into the future: Focusing on the capability, experience and the brand of the organization to enable the organization is geared to operate in the new normal
The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to reposition the organization for the future, as experts say. Isn’t this the right time to leverage digital technologies, automation, and AI for organizations to move to the next level of work?
Whilst there are a lot of big shifts that the organization needs to make, one of the biggest shifts for the future is going to be the consideration for automation and the opportunity for balancing white and blue collar jobs with metal collar jobs. The need to redefine the jobs to be done and how it needs to be done to balance productivity, performance and workplace considerations will be an important consideration to decide the degree and type of automation. AI and automation for repetitive as well as less skilled jobs is a given. The big ask in the future is also going to be about moving from a factory/ in person set up to a virtual/ hybrid and/ or less contact mode. This would mean rethinking the job/ activity to be done because this would entail the real use and application of automation.
How can organizations scale the productivity that can come with new ways of working, specifically the new combination of virtual and onsite work?
Scaling productivity in the current context would entail redefining how the job gets done, how to build for continuity and consistency as well as balance white and blue collar workforce with automation as well as a distributed strategy for getting the job done. Thus, at the core of deriving this productivity is not just compression of jobs and identifying leakages but also identifying how the job will need to get done to support an onsite/ virtual/ hybrid model.
How can we refine our assessment of employees’ work and the rewards they receive, such that it is a fair and equitable reflection of their contribution to the organization?
As this is a big shift, the focus of assessments and rewards will have to balance between designed for driving performance and for driving the success of the operating model in itself. The newer way of working is expecting people to redefine a lot of what they have done and how they have done. As employees need to take the workplace to their homes, it may require a complete rethink of the policies and experience. Similarly, incentives will also have to be rethought.
Most importantly, jobs of the future will not be the same as the past. Hence, the need to rethink the jobs would mean assessments can’t necessarily be on past performance but ability of the leaders to scale agility, envision and lead without prejudice.