COVID-19 and the lockdown have tremendously altered the structure of the Indian professional, corporate set up, creating new rules and trends in the employee- employer dynamics. On the one hand, as salary cuts and layoffs became a flavour of the season during the early lockdown, involuntary attrition has been plaguing the IT sector in the new normal. As companies struggle to maintain overheads and avoid layoffs, employees are struggling with pay cuts or are still coming to terms with negligible to zero increments. Further, ‘work from home’ has completely disturbed the ‘work culture’ fabric, adding to the insecurity and uncertainty among employees. It is not a surprise then, that while IT as a sector has seen a comparatively steady growth during the lockdown, it has also witnessed a massive attrition trend that has posed a grave internal challenge. On an average, the employee turnaround rate – the rate of recruiting and replacing an employee who has left the job, for the IT sector, remains at 13.2%, higher than other business sectors. While this can be for various reasons, the most prominent right now seems to be the salary cuts and the lack of increments. Moving between companies, seeking higher pay checks that can compensate for the absence of a salary hike, is common. However, in the processes, companies are losing out on well trained staff while employees are making choices that could hamper their long term growth, risk getting trapped in an unfavourable work environment or worse, face layoff in a short term, if the new company is not a stable one.
Listed here are 5 tips on how IT Companies, especially the MSME/ SME sector, can control attrition and drive positive employee engagement, in the post COVID-19 world:
- Meaningful Employee Engagement: This is of vital importance today, as the world comes to terms with new normal. A lot of companies believe ‘employee engagement’ is just about being in touch, organising virtual town hall meetings and ensuring a regular ‘checking up on you’ conversation by the superior and the HR. However, meaningful engagement, that goes beyond the superficial and allows the employees to voice concerns and discuss apprehensions etc., would be transformative for the organisation! Listening, after all, is the basis of any problem solving!
- Transparency: This is another major factor that needs to be addressed, especially during these uncertain times. While HR and management do engage and work closely with employees, there continues to be a sense of dis-trust or lack of understanding in the minds of the employees, often leading to anxiety related to job security. Sometimes harsh or pressured conversations, criticism, or feedback can amplify this anxiety, making one feel the fear of being sacked. Honest and transparent one on one communication and mass address, can go a long way to sooth and assure employees who may have been feeling anxious about their role, their job security or performance. Knowing exactly where the company stands and what are its future goals of business revival and for its employees, can create a long lasting and trusted mutual relationship of support and growth.
- Flexible policies/Hot desk approach: As ‘work from home’ continues to remain an integral part of the new normal in the workplace, restructuring HR policies and job roles that can be amplified around this, can be significant in not only boosting performance but also allowing them a sense of belonging. Offering options where employees can choose to work from a hot desk in office a few times a week and work from home at other times, as per mutual requirement, can help them gain sense of belonging and respect. Further, customising, or allowing a warmer working environment, that takes into consideration their personal responsibilities, can also go a long way in making employees feel welcome, respected, and cared for.
- Training and skill development: Upskilling during the lockdown has been a trend most professionals followed on a personal level. However, charting a growth plan through strategic upskilling and training programs for employees, can show long term commitment on part of the company, towards the individual growth of its employees. This can be especially helpful now to let employees know that the lack of monetary increments in the current times is a temporary thing and they can be assured of the company’s long term investment in their growth.
- Overall Wellbeing: While all of the above are significant in building trust and reassuring employees of the company’s commitment to their growth, focus on overall wellbeing of employees is equally important to ensure a healthy and productive work motivation is maintained. During these unprecedented times, people are struggling with several personal challenges, including distribution of household duties, parenting duties, added responsibility of unwell family members, or that of vulnerable elders etc., in addition to work pressure. Empathetic HR policies and genuine interactions on part of the senior management, can help create a supportive environment that focuses on enhancing the mental and physical health of the employees. From regular physical and medical tests to interactive team building events, flexible work policies and well delegated flow of work, can help distribute work pressure and relieve stress levels.
While the above tips are handy for senior management and HR personnel to create a positive ‘new normal’ workplace, it is also important for employees to see, appreciate and respond to the initiatives taken by the company. Here are tips for how employees can weigh and take a decision before they decide to call it quits with a company:
- Long term goals: These can be confusing times for everyone, especially employees who are the sole breadwinner of the family. However, jumping ship and changing companies frequently with the pure focus on higher pay, is not always a good idea. One needs to analyse long term career goals and build a profile that serves a purpose based on this. One wrong decision, taken spontaneously, based on short term challenges can create a huge dent and irreparable damage to one’s career.
- Focus on value vs monetary remuneration: In times of crisis and uncertainty, it always helps to see the bigger picture. Questions like how much value does a particular job role or organisation is adding to you vs just the monetary compensation, needs to be evaluated before making a decision to quit.
- Challenging the comfort zone: Challenging times call for out of box and often uncomfortable approaches to work. This is also the formula to grow and mature as seasoned professionals and can drive one on a path of professional self-discovery.
- Cultivating a team spirit: Lastly, the approach to any problem, both personal and professional, is to solve it as a team. Cultivating a team spirit is vital in these hard times as it helps one to not only cope better but to also have unique perspectives and build stronger support systems – something that only comes when one decides to stick together, and face the situation.
As we emerge from a mighty calamity, on the other side of 2020, it would help us to realise and remember that the one thing that helped us all get past the crisis is the ability to face it together, as one unit. For businesses and employees too, it is time to stick together, in mutual support, so as to help each other survive and grow. That is the only way forward!