Anup Kumar Pal is the HR Head-Wabtec India Technology & Engineering Centre(WITEC) , Wabtec Corporation. He has previously worked with General Electric, and Hewlett Packard. In an exclusive interview with People Matters, he talks about how technology is supporting the company’s efforts in responding to the disruption by COVID19.
1. What are some of the key shifts that the company has had to undergo with respect to the workplace and the workforce, in response to the disruption by COVID19?
Most of our employees have been accustomed to working remotely as part of our flexible working policy. This has come in very handy for our employees and teams. However, for the rest of the staff, to remain productive, the team also organized over 250 laptops and desktops which were provided to ‘home office’ of respective employees.
The Wabtec engineering team adopted quickly through the evolving situation arising out of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown announced by the Indian Government. Wabtec serves customers across the world from India, the support is across lifecycles of locomotives and its products. In addition, as lockdown was announced across the world in various stages, freight operations considered essential service had to continue.
With a multi-pronged approach, we connected across the organization to ensure communication and critical information flow is seamless. A leadership steering group was formed which meets on alternate dates to take stock of evolving situation. Bi-weekly huddles with people leaders also helped us connect with the next line of leadership who, in-turn, engage in a weekly connect with their respective teams. We also ran extensive internal communications campaigns to drive home the seriousness of the pandemic. A global monitoring website was conducted which was updated periodically. Employees across locations were informed about what the organization was doing for their safety and adhering to guidelines issued by government for our ‘return to work’ as well. Currently we are working with a lean staff with safe distancing protocols in place.
2. What are some of the digital and technology innovations you've had to bring in to adapt to the new normal?
Our IT team has done a fantastic job to scale-up the entire IT infrastructure, be it supporting our high computing IT infrastructure, supporting various biz applications or supporting every end-user with their individual machines.
Extensive use of Skype, MS Teams and regular training of various applications have ensured productivity has improved. Similarly, our factories in other locations are also restarted operations to address the local market requirements.
3. With the rise in remote work, what have been your biggest challenges with respect to dealing with this new style of working?
Most of our employees have had the experience working remotely during regular times, hence the transition has been smooth. However, employees are not used to working remotely for prolonged periods which is unique in the scenario arising out of COVID 19. Employees have had to adapt their working environment at home without much disturbances. With high usage of internet, bandwidth and video call drops are also part of the challenges which we face. We have also introduced some interesting social interaction opportunities within the organization on conferencing platforms. These included Zumba, Yoga, Motivational sessions as well as counselling. We understand and appreciate the fact that mental health is one of the biggest concerns in the current environment. As HR practitioners, we are empathetic towards such concerns and are trying to address the same with sensitivity. This is a global initiative across Wabtec as we value our employees and what each one of us does on a daily basis not just affects transportation but the economies of countries as well.
4. What are some of the key impact measures you are tracking with respect to engagement and productivity?
In addition to regular tools being used to capture productivity and efficiency our key CTQ remains feedback from our global customers, internal / external stakeholders to whom our engineers cater.
That enable by a robust mechanism to connect with each of them in a consistent rhythm to seek their feedback, basis which we continue or pivot our work.
5. In the upcoming months, what investments are the most necessary in the technology environment that will allow your company to thrive?
We continue to invest in new technologies. The WITEC operations in India is the largest Technology sites in Wabtec Corporation. Our systems at present are helping us to meet business needs. We have investments in millions in labs and digital technologies which will continue to have critical influence in shaping the next new normal. As the pandemic continues to challenge our ways of working, we continue to serve our customers with innovation and commitments.