Sowmya Santhosh is the Vice President – Human Resources at CitiusTech. She has over 20 years of expertise across all HR functions like organizational development, performance management, employee relations, OD interventions, training and development, compensation and benefits, including over 9 years at CitiusTech as Head of Human Resources Functions. Prior to joining CitiusTech she led the HR function at Qwest Communication, the fourth largest telecommunication provider in the USA.
In this exclusive interaction with People Matters, Sowmya talks about changing employee expectations in a post-COVID workplace, redesigning performance assessment and rewards for a virtual workplace, remote working and more.
Here are excerpts of the interview.
How do you see the global performance management and rewards systems landscape amid this COVID-19 pandemic?
Performance management, often seen as an HR process, is actually a key business process that ensures individual and team goals dovetail into organizational goals. It is challenging to explain to an employee why an appraisal feedback is relevant in the current COVID situation when companies are not able to give increments. At CitiusTech, we are investing more time in understanding the growth / career aspirations of our employees during this period. Though increments might have been moderated or frozen, we are making sure we provide benefits like COVID insurance, doctor-on-call, counselling services, and work-from-home support in terms of office supplies and broadband connectivity.
What are the new elements and metrics HR and business leaders should keep in mind while streamlining the new performance management and rewards strategies? Should employees be judged on their functional responsibilities alone, given that the situation at the moment is different?
Given the unique situation we are in, not all roles have the same workload as others.
It has become extremely important for organizations to redefine goals that can be measured in a remote working environment.
We follow a process called OGSM where we list down the Objectives, Goals, identify Strategies to achieve these goals and then Measures to improve performance. This helps in bringing in more accountability and autonomy around measurable goals. We have also introduced a special initiative called Innovation for Accelerated Growth(IAG) to engage our talent pool and drive value for business . The work done in the IAG program will be accounted for while measuring the employee’s performance.
Remote working became the new normal during the pandemic lockdown. How are you embracing remote work and mitigating some of the risks of COVID-19 to your business and employees' welfare?
All our employees our working remotely in a 100% remote capacity. Difficult times like these create a lot of anxiety in employees around their performance, evaluation and job security. We have come up with a communication protocol for all and managers have been instructed to follow that, and we as HR Business Partners do a dipstick survey with the employees to ensure those protocols are followed. It is very important for managers to keep their employees updated and give them the opportunity to speak directly. These conversations can be formal as well as informal.
We are also providing employees with a COVID-19 insurance policy to deal with medical expenses in case they are affected by COVID-19. We are regularly connecting with employees to check on their well-being and provide them with any necessary help if required.
What have you learned from your employees in terms of their performance assessment and rewards expectations? Do you see a change in terms of their expectation on how the company will reward them?
As an HR Leader, I have seen how employees have changed their perspective on performance assessments and rewards expectations. They have learned to work through this pandemic. They have learnt new ways of working, collaborating, communicating and planning that have been embraced and are unlikely to be reversed. We have discovered new ways of collaboration, leadership, inclusion, work-life balance, autonomy and self-authority that many people have been longing for decades but simply couldn’t achieve.
The sense of ownership amongst employees has significantly increased.
We regularly update our employees with the latest developments in the organization. Employees are very much clear about what to expect and what not to expect and this helps us in maintaining a culture of openness, which has always been one of our core values.
When it comes to productivity, what are the key drivers employers need to pay attention to?
In a remote working situation, it is very important to provide employees with the right collaboration tools to increase productivity. Upskilling employees in the latest technologies is another important aspect that impacts productivity. Other important drivers are encouraging autonomy, reducing the need for micro-management, clear and transparent communication and displaying a genuine interest and care for employees.
Organizations will need to build operating models with a high amount of flexibility in terms of timings and work schedules, commitment to health and safety, appreciation and recognition and a sense of belongingness to the organization.