Article: ‘Organizations will be called to step up, show their softer side as the pandemic evolves’

Strategic HR

‘Organizations will be called to step up, show their softer side as the pandemic evolves’

In a way this evolving pandemic has forced all companies to put employees and their well-being ahead of everything else, believes Pavitra Singh, CHRO, PepsiCo India.
‘Organizations will be called to step up, show their softer side as the pandemic evolves’

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As the new wave of coronavirus sets us back one year yet again, how are organizations gearing up to sail through the uncertainty? How are they relooking at their continuity plans and employee support schemes? In an exclusive interaction with us, Pavitra Singh, CHRO, PepsiCo India, shares her take on how organizations should sail through these uncertain times and what the future entails.

How do you see the seismic shifts in the world of work induced by COVID-19?

The two worlds – be it of home or work, they can never be the same again. We have seen and shall continue to witness a big change in the mindset of employees, senior management, and society. The pandemic has made consistent communication from a leader all the more crucial, empathy being of utmost priority, health and safety being paramount, and collaboration and agility as key table stakes. Also, digital acceleration has happened with consumers being digital savvy and companies adopting technology and digital way of working. The pandemic has also brought about its own set of challenges like the increase in mental health issues, webinar fatigue, and lack of interpersonal contact which is most wanted by us all. 

COVID-19 has upended how we work, and the future is neither the death of the office nor a return to the way things were. Instead, organizations are moving toward a hybrid mode of work. What’s your take on this?

I think the decision on the model will depend on each industry and the team’s way of working. While there will be situations where the team needs to be together, there will be the option to pass on the work baton digitally, thereby ensuring more flexibility. Sometimes, issues that need intense debate and brainstorming would require face-to-face conversations while for a function like sales, one-to-one chemistry is still very important. Hence, we will see a hybrid model evolving however cannot speculate on the proportions of the hybrid model currently. 

New variants of COVID-19 are creating chaos in several countries, especially India. What’s your take on how leaders should sail through uncertain times and manage talent? 

Nothing is more important than the well-being of the employee, their family’s and his/her peace of mind. I think organizations will be called to step up and show their softer side as the pandemic evolves. In a way, this evolving pandemic has forced all companies to put employees and their well-being ahead of everything else which is quite heartening to see and much needed. 

How do you see the changing role of HR? What are the top challenges for HR and talent leaders today? 

The pandemic has forced CHROs to step up and deliver. The role of the CHRO is like a CEO today, a CEO in the context of the pandemic– E for Energy and Empathy, depending on what’s happening. It starts with empathy, but one cannot stay in the empathy zone always, one has to provide critical energy for the organization to gather momentum. Energy in terms of contact, in terms of engaging families, in terms of raising the emotional level.

Where do you see the world of work in 2-3 years?  

  • Collaboration in remote working will become a key capability.
  • I think we will see more automation in hazardous workplaces.
  • We will see the head office doing more of strategy and coordination.
  • I think employees will value the support they have been given emotionally and will place a premium on that for future job changes.
  • Medical benefits will become more important in total packages.
  • We will have mental health experts in every company, in-house and outsourced, both will happen.

How are you preparing as a leader to deal with the next phase of challenges? What are your top priorities?

Leadership capability will be at a premium. The next phase of business needs one to come out of the current flux. That will need clarity, purpose, and commitment to changing old ways of doing business, digital being a prime example. Old legacy strengths will have to be rethought, challenged afresh and the foundation of new capabilities has to be built. It will be an exciting phase for leaders to renew themselves.


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Topics: Strategic HR, #COVID-19, #HybridWorkplace

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