Mohith Mohan is presently serving as the Senior Director - Human Resources at Lowe's India. In this role, Mohith leads the entire HR portfolio, including culture development, change management, recruitment, diversity & inclusion, workforce planning, organization development, compensation and benefits, performance management, training & development, communications & branding, and CSR.
Mohith brings a rich HR experience in the financial, product, and retail space. His expertise cut across consulting, organizational strategy, coaching, and building organizations. Before Lowe's, he worked with Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) as the Divisional Vice President and Site Leader. Prior to that, Mohith held various leadership positions at Fidelity Investments and Yahoo!
In this exclusive conversation with People Matters, Mohith brings forth the do’s and don’ts of workforce management in the post-COVID workplace, elements of performance management that require a reset to cater to the evolving workplace and workforce expectations and reflects on the biggest dilemma he faces as a leader.
Read on for excerpts from the interaction.
Which instances in the last one year have impacted you the most as a leader? Can you share one experience that brought you joy and one that felt like a setback?
2020 has been a tough year for the entire world that disrupted lives, businesses, and our outlook. I believe the magnitude of these changes has empowered us to explore another dimension of reimagining the traditional methods of engaging with people.
One of the key reasons for happiness during this difficult time has been the integration of home and work. It created an opportunity where we went back to the basics of spending quality time with families. We adapted to the new normal of having kids, pets, or ringing doorbells during video conferences.
However, while I do believe that some of us have been fortunate enough to work remotely, there is a disparity in our ecosystem that impacted the lives of support staff. This was surely worrying where ends could not be met or children could not have access to education etc.
Having said that, at Lowe's, we adapted several new methods of communication and encouraged our employees by recognizing their efforts and contributions. These involve regular updates, feedback sessions, caring for them and their family, etc.
What is the biggest dilemma on your mind right now as a leader?
As organizations work tirelessly on the "Return to Work" plans, one thing is certain that workplaces in the near term will look different. Companies across the globe have already integrated collaborative work across virtual environments in almost every business function. Masks, social distancing, and hybrid workplaces will become a norm through 2021. Reimagining the workplace and how an organization continues to build, retain, and evolve culture will be the focus.
Engaging teams virtually will continue to be a challenge in a workplace that thrives on community-based and social living. As the environment crawls back to normalcy this could be a "real" problem in terms of engagement and retention.
How are you approaching people management under the existing work setup? What are the three do's and don'ts you follow as you tackle workforce management post-COVID?
The pandemic has really forced leaders and executives to walk around in an environment where interactive contact has replaced meeting rooms. At Lowe's, we continue to focus on digital enablement of all touchpoints and helping employees across the lifecycle. We have also made specific efforts on areas like POSH awareness in a virtual world, continued efforts on diversity hiring and community giving through our CSR efforts. In all of this effective communication and availability, there are two key aspects to enable the people managers.
A few recommendations on the do's:
- Focus on employee well-being as this area is developing rapidly and organizations and leaders need to embrace this change
- Workplaces need to morph to experience centers for collaboration, ideation and learning
- Continue to enable career conversations and provide career paths – expectations have not changed, and organizations need to be better prepared
Few recommendations of don'ts:
- Crawl – Walk - Run - Going back to pre-pandemic ways of working in a hurry
- In a rush, not to pull back pandemic/provisional benefits
- Avoid making decisions for the employee, focus on involving them in co-creating the way forward
With the ongoing shift in workstyles and people expectations, both employer as well as employee, how do you see performance management evolve? In your opinion, which elements of performance management require a reset?
Elevating performance is one of the key take-aways from 2020, the key aspect of this is having agility in the process.
For example, when the pandemic struck, all businesses were struggling to take the "digital-first route" as an operating model. The need to maintain "agile goals" is therefore crucial.
Few elements to be relooked are:
- Dynamic goals or agile goals that get defined based on business and context
- The shift from set timeline of feedback to ongoing feedback
- Positively differentiating high performance with flexibility in rewards and recognition
What cornerstones do you consider critical to culture and employee experience in the present day?
The world has witnessed radical changes owing to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes have had a significant impact on the way we live and how businesses are run. Through this time of disruption, the top priority for companies today is to ensure the health and safety of their workforce. Amid the lockdown, there has been an acceleration in the adoption of digital tools and transformation across almost every industry. However, this can also act as a boon if an organization upskills and adapts to the new normal.
Enabling employees with efficient and seamless remote working infrastructure and by following all social norms once they return to the workplace is crucial to maintain their productivity without compromising their safety.
At this stage, organizations need to be resilient, flexible and take the onus to relevantly reimagine themselves and secure their future.
What is your advice for leaders as they hit refresh and plan for the year ahead?
The most important aspect of the year gone by has been the role of leaders, as we continue to be in a pandemic, the advice to leaders is:
- Take care of yourself and walk the talk – Make people wellness a priority
- Leadership matters – communicate at every opportunity possible as the organization wants to hear about developments
- Continue to invest in people as you go down the path of digitization. The future workforce may look different but will continue to be the DNA of any organization as the pandemic has taught us