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.
The digital transformation initiatives that businesses have embarked on will continue for years. While we don’t have a clear indication of when the virus will go away, organizations are trying hard to make the most of this uncertain time as we move into 2021.
So, what would be the key trends you should closely keep your eyes on in 2021? In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Krity Sharma, Chief People Officer at Mahindra Lifespaces, shares her views on the outlook for the second year of the pandemic.
What are the key workplace trends that you think will accelerate in the long term in terms of work? What gaps have COVID-19 brought to the fore?
As a human race going through a crisis together, it has forced us to think about our purpose and values. From an office and technology perspective, I think the hybrid model is going to stay. While we won’t gravitate to the extreme that everyone will work from home and offices won’t be needed, but even traditional industries like us will start seeing the office more as a collaboration space. From an infrastructure perspective also, offices are going to become different. The model of coming to the office every day will be challenged.
The focus on inclusion and wellness has been given a different definition. Having opened their homes to the workplace, employees find themselves speaking about different challenges which they might not have spoken of before at the workplace.
The integration of work and life that has happened is here to stay and that leads to inclusion; not only from the perspective of gender but also how do you run remote and inclusive meetings.
As a real estate industry, our business models are also getting challenged. People are now looking at modular office spaces within their homes. Also, the whole focus on safety and hygiene protocols is going to stay for the next two years for sure.
How do you see the larger HR landscape evolve in 2021 and how should talent leaders reimagine workforce management in 2021?
The safety concern will be a topmost priority for HR. As people come back to the office after working at home for 9-10 months, organizations need to make sure the workplace remains safe.
They have to keep their eyes open when it comes to psychological safety as industries will go through that challenge. Because it is on people’s minds. As some organizations go through optimization of the workforce, how do you create that psychological safety within your organization? HR professionals cannot get very overconfident about retaining talent. If you don’t take care, the best talent will leave for the right opportunity.
HR will also get experimental with the traditional workforce models-like what part of the workforce can be flexible. Technology will continue as a strength for sure. And the revival of the workplace will continue to be an HR priority this year.
What as per you is going to be the outlook for the real estate sector in 2021?
The transparency that the government started creating in this sector three to four years before, will continue to lead to consolidation in the real estate market. Some of the affordable housing space will get more exciting. The sector will also continue to use technology more and more.
Many things in the residential industry have stayed the same though our needs have changed. For instance, the outdated dining space is no more the focal center of a family. Living and working from homes for the last year has made people think about them differently. This is good for us as far as experimentation with the design and rethinking and personalizing the whole space is concerned.
We are confident that demand will go up. Also, the job demand will also go up on account of consolidation.
What will Mahindra Lifespaces focus on as far as people and work are concerned in 2021?
Whenever someone is ready to come back to work and we need them, we will focus on ensuring a very safe experience for them. Secondly, as business models are changing, our focus would be on ensuring that the talent pool is reskilled and energized for that.
As we all have come out of a dull period, another focus area will also be on how do we get that energy back in the system and get people mobilized to do a lot more.
We will also continue to focus on the personalization of employee experience, with a greater focus on the human part of it just than the process. The moments of truth will differ from employee to employee.
Lastly, as an organization, we need to ensure that the four-five lessons we have learnt from the pandemic should not be forgotten.
One key learning for you from this crisis and why is it important?
One of our learnings as an organization was that when you want people to be resilient, you should share the news as it is and not sugar coat it. When as an organization you become open and transparent, people give back that resilience to you-so don’t underestimate your teams on resilience.
From a personal learning perspective, I have learnt that when you work with such a diverse group as Mahindra, some aspects like the caring aspect and the value-driven aspect, work beautifully in the background and you might take them for granted. We are the tiniest part of the group but whenever we needed something, the group came together as a force behind us. I saw the same feeling of solidarity and openness in the HR fraternity as well during this time. Lastly, I also feel it is good to have a sense of humor even in gloomy times such as this.