People across the globe are yearning for the year 2020 to end fast, with the hope that the dreadful pandemic will get over by then. Organisations across the world are awaiting normalcy. Many companies believe it is wise to simply let this period cool off on its own. That is why, they prefer to maintain a status quo on everything — hiring, appraisals, increments.
On the flipside, there are also companies going the whole hog to take control of the situation and get the best out of it.
Pavitra Singh, CHRO, PepsiCo India, shares with HRKatha, “In the current times, we have reflected on what we need to do differently, challenged norms and ensured that ways of working become more agile and drive faster decision making. We have looked at all cost lines, prioritised discretionary costs and strengthened ecosystem partnerships. There are various process improvements that we have focused on to drive efficiencies at all levels.”
For any given company, according to Singh, there are two types of costs — good costs and bad costs.
“Bench planning and talent development for us is an ongoing legacy process, and this year will be no different in terms of our commitment to give unique careers and critical development experiences to our employees. We have our pulse on outside talent too to ensure that we are investing in future capabilities ahead of the curve.”
Good costs include training and investments in R&D, innovation and advertising, while bad costs are those discretionary costs that are not needed immediately.
Singh says, “A crisis provides a good opportunity to relook at the existing systems and identify the bad costs to drive efficiencies.”
“At PepsiCo India, we are leveraging this time to strengthen our business, build efficiencies and continue to invest in good costs to build future capabilities and talent,” she adds.
For instance, the Company has been investing heavily on internal talent development through key capability interventions.
PepsiCo India has been organising leader-led sessions, powerful online learning platforms and leveraging industry experts through its ‘Outside-In’ series, for its employees.
“Bench planning and talent development for us is an ongoing legacy process, and this year will be no different in terms of our commitment to give unique careers and critical development experiences to our employees. We have our pulse on outside talent too to ensure that we are investing in future capabilities ahead of the curve,” claims Singh.
Meanwhile, PepsiCo India has also honoured all its commitments to the external hires — Millennial campus talent — and extended internships and offers. It will continue to do so for the remaining year as well.
Singh believes that communication is the key during these uncertain times. “Employee communication has been the biggest lever for us to reinforce certainty and make sure that everyone has access to information about company operations and performance,” she explains.
In the initial phase, the Company organised weekly townhalls to ensure flow of information and build a connect with the employees as they tried to adapt to the new normal.
Now, the Company has moved to just one company-wide townhall every month, where there are interactive sessions between the employees and the senior leaders. “Employees are encouraged to ask questions. Our long-standing tradition to ‘voice opinions fearlessly’ with or without townhalls, encourages our employees to keep sharing their feedback, ideas and questions,” shares Singh.
“We have been leveraging multiple formats to ensure continuous employee listening, which is key during such challenging times, to get a feel of the pulse of the organisation,” she points out.
PepsiCo India believes that while it is important to listen to the employees, it is equally important to provide them with a feedback on their work. That is why, the Company will ensure that the performance-management process is completed within its due time.
Singh is of the opinion that, difficult times or not, providing feedback on how employees have performed will always remain core to the performance-management process. Shying away from it is not the right strategy.
“This year has provided an opportunity to rethink on the traditional metrics of measurement, and instead, focus a lot more on the ‘How Tos’ — collaboration, agility, future-first thinking,” she states.
Singh also clarifies that 2020 has made the Company cognizant of the fact that it has not been a level playing field for all due to multiple circumstances, unique to different individuals. The Company will continue to take cognizance of this and attempt to strike the right balance.
PepsiCo India has three sets of employees – one which works out of offices, another which is out in the market and a third which works in its factories and bottling plants.
“We have opened our plants after core process changes to ensure that staffing such that it facilitates social distancing. We have got logs and measures in place to ensure ‘contact-tracing’ for all workers,” reveals Singh.
For the office-based workforce, it was easy to adapt to the new normal because, the Company has been practising a remote-working model for several years now, with limited key roles across India and the world.
“So, when the pandemic hit, we took it to the next level and quickly scaled up to adapt our working styles to full scope for all our office-based workforce. We are still operating at 100 per cent remote working for all office employees, until we see a declining number of cases in India,” Singh asserts.
For its frontline employees, PepsiCo India has been extending safe travel and stay privileges across its sales territories. In addition, the Company has insured all its frontline staff, including the off-roll employees employed with the distribution partners. “We extended them medical benefits in case of COVID-19,” shares Singh.
PepsiCo India took an additional COVID 19 insurance and a higher coverage for the workmen, while also covering costs of home care as a part of the hospitalisation policy for all its employees.