Article: The hybrid model has given rise to a culture of moonlighting: Essar’s Krishnakumar

Talent Management

The hybrid model has given rise to a culture of moonlighting: Essar’s Krishnakumar

In an interview with People Matters, Essar’s CHRO and Sr.VP, Krishnakumar CS talked about the changing talent economy, how companies can navigate new workplace trends and how leaders should tackle economic tailwinds.
The hybrid model has given rise to a culture of moonlighting: Essar’s Krishnakumar

The talent landscape is changing in a way that changes many workplace priorities for companies today - as hybrid workplaces grow and new employee preferences emerge amidst an economic flux, HR teams must find the pulse of employees and balance business sustainability to remain relevant in the face of these changes. In this conversation with People Matters, Essar’s Sr. VP and CHRO, Krishnakumar CS, shares his thoughts on the challenges.

There's a great deal of uncertainty in the global economy due to a number of disruptions post-pandemic -including news of recession, supply chain disruptions and high inflation. What are some of your top priorities from a business and talent perspective? 

The global pandemic has enforced a transformative change, creating uncertainty across industries and verticals. It is the first phase of the pandemic, where most of us learned how to tackle uncertainty to a great extent. During this challenging journey, we have evolved and can now handle unexpected challenges better with a dedicated approach. I strongly believe that uncertainty is uncontrollable nor can it be avoided, but with a solution-based approach, all the toughest circumstances can certainly be seized. 

In my view, our business priorities have not changed much; we were and are going forward with whatever business scale-up expansion plans we thought of, but yes, from a talent perspective, it has changed. We retained employees, especially those who constantly supported us through the entire crisis and uncertain period. But I think it's bound to happen that the bonding and relationship between the organization and employees have actually grown better. Over the years, we have understood that we need to ensure employee happiness beyond the office space. It is essential to be aware of how your employees manage their personal life in terms of psychological factors, crisis management etc. So, to extend things beyond the office for people, whether it can be through excellent medical coverage or extended psychological health lines. A lot of those new priorities have emerged, and we see that it gives us value in terms of adding those into the Employee Benefit basket.

Post-covid, companies are still experimenting with a variety of hybrid workplace arrangements. How are you approaching the future of the workplace in your company?

Considering the space we are in; hybrid only works for our corporate offices since we are in the operating space across verticals, and most of them were an essential part of our power or ports business. Even during the global pandemic, all our plants were active and running full scale, and even employees were operational throughout that time.

In my opinion, the hybrid model is slowly taking over and has given rise to a culture of moonlighting. Many companies find this model lucrative for both their employees as well as for the company due to the many challenges that surfaced during the tough times. However, this model may not work for all jobs as the nature of the job can be varied and cannot be executed as would be done otherwise. In a model where we offer hybrid work culture, there could be a high possibility that an employee simultaneously works on multiple other assignments alongside. In that case, the organization should be open to this concept. We at Essar primarily onboard employees for full-time assignments at our offices as well as our plant sites. We strongly believe that all have to equally contribute towards the growth of the organization, and their physical presence is therefore imperative. The hybrid working model, therefore, does not work for us.

Flexibility is a key ask today from employees. We're seeing it become an important part of talent retention and even hiring. How has your strategy changed or not changed on this issue?

At Essar, our strategy has mostly stayed the same in this particular space. Considering it is a Power plant and its functioning completely depends on its workforce, it is imperative to have an organized work schedule 24X7 and therefore, we need the support of physical resources. Offering flexibility to our workforce, therefore, doesn't seem feasible; however, we do have a lot of flexibility in case of personal emergencies or sick leave. This implies that we can only have a certain amount of flexibility to offer to our employees to manage their work life. 

Furthermore, we offer great flexibility to female employees needing additional time off at times whenever required, but that has some boundaries as well. To sum it up, we have flexibility within the structure we follow. There are many companies that can manage with a very flexible system, but our environment and needs are very different. And we keep it quite transparent with our employees or even new joiners who wish to work with us.

What is the role of HR technology in accelerating your business priorities? What are some of the key areas where technology has had a disproportionate impact on your talent strategy?

To address the first part of your question, I would like to highlight here that the Essar Group has implemented Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) solution to tackle issues related to streamlining HR processes, tech adoption and user-friendliness in terms of ease, not only for HR but for our entire workforce across verticals. We believe that the involvement and contribution of each team member in the system is required for a good HR process. The solution has automated the entire chain and helped us streamline talent management, Recruitment & Hiring and other critical HR processes by having key stakeholders like the manager and supervisor walk along through this journey. 

Thus, technology has a significant role to play in modernizing the entire HR infrastructure. To be precise, it has improvised our turnaround time in areas such as legacy paperwork, processes and many other traditional formalities. Now we have a proper track record of all the approval processes to avoid human work and layers of cross-checking. We can easily map the loose threads and pull them up whenever required. It has been extremely beneficial to make the pesky hiring process even more seamless, and integration of new joiners into the system has become much more streamlined and quicker. 

As companies continue to navigate this uncertain time, what is your one advice for leaders as they pivot their plans and programs to address the short-term demands of the economy and industry?

My advice to them is never to lose sight of their vision and plans since that will always be a long-term and ultimate goal. As a leader, you might have to adjust your short-term goals and plans to recover or overcome any critical situation but never lose the target and goals for which you're basically setting the system. In my opinion, flexibility and communication are two elements that any leader needs to have in their system. Flexibility in terms of adapting to new things, changes, and communication. At the same time, communication with all the stakeholders at the right time is equally important.

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Topics: Talent Management, HR Technology, Leadership

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