Blog: HR is the Krishna in the COVID-19 battle: Devdutt Pattanaik

Employee Relations

HR is the Krishna in the COVID-19 battle: Devdutt Pattanaik

In the closing Keynote for #SAPHRConnect2020 in partnership with People Matters, Devdutt Pattanaik shared how HR needs to be Krishna and enable, motivate, and guide people and organizations.
HR is the Krishna in the COVID-19 battle: Devdutt Pattanaik

For our closing Keynote for the #SAPHRConnect2020 in partnership with People Matters, we had the privilege to host Devdutt Pattanaik on the theme of "Happily... But Not Ever After."


The current pandemic has hit us with the realization that, honestly, nothing lasts forever, no strengths, no weaknesses. BUT also, no challenges, no threats. Organizationally nothing lasts either-no structures, no processes, and no frameworks. We live in a world as Devdutt reminded us, where no gurus, no prophets can predict the future. 

As an HR community, Devdutt invites us to be Krishna. On the battlefield, Krishna is the one that enables, motivates, and guides. That is the role that HR needs to play in these times. 

However, like in the Mahabharata, there are no guarantees, there are no commitments. While the pandemic may have an expiry date, nobody knows how long and the impact that may have. Every day is a new day. Decisions will be changed, payrolls will also change, and this will happen every day. 

Here are the key recommendations to navigate this battlefield:

  • Embrace unpredictability: Like Ram did when he was just about to be crowned king and, suddenly, with no prior communication, he was sent to the forest!
  • Embrace vulnerability: It is OK not to know; it is OK to change a stand. Facts change every day, so will decisions too.  
  • Manage the extremes in a continuum: Be like Arjuna and build both focus and also perspectives. Pre-COVID19, perspectives were needed for the leaders, while the emphasis was needed at the front line. Today we need both. The second extreme Devdutt shared was the extreme between safety and starvation (livelihood), the continuum between staying at home safely and going out to earn our income. 
  • Happily... But Not Ever After: The hand (karma), heart (bhakti), and head (gyan), they work together not independently. The hand is the doing, the action, operating through the why (perspective), and the how (focus). The second element is about balancing the action with our emotion. Specifically targeting the emotion of fear and insecurity, so while doing, be aware of the fear and insecurity. The final element, the head, the intellect only comes last, for a particular job once we have clarity and have taken care of the emotions.

Finally, Devdutt concluded that the world in 2020 would need more "generosity." The ability to pay forward, the ability to keep relationships even when the going is tough. Generosity starts from shareholders and boards and gets translated not only on decisions BUT also on how decisions are implemented. You can break a contract, BUT don't break a relationship. 

"Do everything you have to do, but not with ego, not with lust, not with envy but with love, compassion, humility, and devotion." – Lord Krishna

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Topics: Employee Relations, #HRIndustry

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