The COVID-19 pandemic has irrevocably changed the world and the world of work. With the COVID-19 crisis, lockdowns, and a global recession, organizations are busy reimagining the “new workplace”. Some of the abrupt changes the coronavirus brought to the fore may stick around forever. And these changes have huge implications for businesses and talent leaders as they plan for 2021.
So, what would be the key trends you should closely keep your eyes on in 2021? In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Pravin Prakash, Chief People Officer, BYJU’S shares his views on the outlook for the second year of the pandemic.
What are the key trends that you think will accelerate in the long term in terms of work? What gaps have COVID-19 brought to the fore?
For the industry, 2020 was truly a year of transformation. The business world has reshaped itself in myriad ways to fit into a ‘new normal’. The current disruption will have a lasting impact on the future of work and we will further witness evolved workplace dynamics.
Working remotely is a key predicted future trend as per experts. Some companies are also adapting a hybrid model to offer flexibility to their workforce. Communication and collaboration will also be at the core of the functioning. Digital technology and tools will enable creative ways to work, making work more flexible and productive for employees. The HR cohort will also be amplifying technology for recruiting, managing, and engaging their employees like last year.
Just like 2020, the future will also witness an enhanced and cohesive relationship between employee and employer.
Employee wellbeing will be the focal point and organizations will come up with creative ways to maintain the workforce morale and make them feel appreciated and valued.
Dealing with the pandemic has been very complex and going back to pre-COVID normalcy will take some time and the best that organizations can do is stay agile, resilient and embrace the changes and trends. It is for organizations and HR leaders to review and access the impact each trend will have and align it to their operations and strategic goals.
The pandemic will be an impetus for innovation in times to come, as many experts say. What have been the biggest lessons this pandemic has highlighted in terms of the culture of innovation?
Rightly, as experts say the pandemic has been a catalyst for transformation, giving people worldwide a chance to unleash their creativity and experiment with new ways to live, learn, work and play. The need for innovation was never more relevant than under pandemic, making workplaces more resilient to continue innovating and finding newer ways of keeping employees motivated.
Collaboration, technology and trust have emerged as long-term goals to help organizations be prepared for tomorrow.
Organizational cultures that encourage curiosity and allow people to imagine can generate an abundance of new, innovative ideas. This provides an environment that allows them to experiment and move a step forward into the future. Amazing things happen when diverse people work together and build on each other's ideas.
The pandemic has shed a light on what can be improved. Like BYJU’S and other edtech platforms have driven a necessary rethinking for the world of education, similarly, COVID-19 brought technology to the forefront in making remote-working possible. Being a digital-first company, our teams across offices have adapted to the work from home culture with ease. Apart from bridging workplace issues, technology further brought a huge increase in student engagement on our app which motivated and pushed the whole team to ensure that work goes on.
What are some of the top questions that leaders need to ask to prepare their workforce for the future of work as we strive to come out stronger from this pandemic?
In my opinion, organizations have been utilizing their full power for the past nine months. They have and are still working on stabilizing everyday work challenges. From top management, to leaders and their teams, every individual has proved that they can manage, strategize, be productive and stimulate at the same time. But to set the 4th gear in 2021 one needs to sit back and think -
• How to avoid a rebound to old ways of working and, at the same time, respond to employee’s desires for a return to normalcy?
• How do we continue to celebrate the ‘essential’ workers (sales team, teachers) as the heroes of our organizations?
• How do we bring in new innovations to maintain workplace agility?
• How do we embrace the benefits of work-from-home and virtual collaboration while mitigating their downsides?
• What are the most precious elements of our culture and how do we reinforce those with new energy coming out of the pandemic?
• How do we look after the total well-being of our employees as the lines between work and home blur?
Given the digital fatigue, how can employers foster their employee morale and productivity intact amid this uncertain time?
With boundaries between home and office work blurring, for every organization, it has been of utmost importance to help and support employees settle into this new way of life. The remote work culture was new and everyone had to quickly adapt to the routine. Just as we prioritize other aspects, employers had to instill faith amongst their employees that their well-being was taken care of.
At BYJU’S, the health and wellness of our employees are paramount and our efforts were focused on fostering an environment in which people felt emotionally safe and supported. To ensure balance and a healthy lifestyle during the trying times, we held regular fitness workshops like Zumba, Bolly fitness, yoga, and meditation etc. Through workshops, events, and forums, we kept engaging our workforce with ways to make work from home fun and exciting and helping create a vibrant workspace at home.
Furthermore, interesting target based challenges have been introduced for BYJUites so that they can work together as a team even while they are working remotely. ‘The Battle of the Best Contest’ for our Business Development team has been a great example for us in terms of how one can bring out the most without making it monotonous. When employees are given a place to share new ideas, something magical happens. These contests ensured that ideas and strategies were put forth by the team. We observed continuous contributions and collaboration during this one-month long challenge.
One key learning for you from this crisis and why is it important?
The pandemic gave the very essence of ‘Workplace – Employee Relationship’ – a new meaning. It not just made companies adopt a more holistic human approach but also helped them focus beyond health covers and physical, emotional, mental, and financial health of the employees.”
While digital business models were working on a new level of intensity, the great pivot to productivity and soul of the workplace were the willing, happy, and motivated employees.
What came out upfront was the need to cultivate a culture of organizational empathy between co-workers by employers. Organizations started becoming more flexible to support the individual needs of the employees - developing ways to foster collaboration, adaptability, recognizing employee’s personal situation, and using technology to facilitate the productivity of employees.
At BYJU’S also, with a specific focus on mental health, we launched an employees’ wellness initiative with access to 24X7 one-on-one online counseling via chat in real-time, conducted periodic counseling and stress-busting sessions by partnering with mental wellness platforms, and took steps to make the remote working process easy.