Nobody had ever imagined a situation as critical as the pandemic, and hence, everyone, including organisations big and small, are preparing to address the implications. All of a sudden, many of the HR processes and policies have become irrelevant. As organisations approach the ‘new normal’, it is time for them to re-evaluate the priorities for the future.
As work is becoming more dynamic and agile, companies such as ATG Tires, a subsidiary of the Yokohama Rubber Company (YRC), are functioning outside of thei comfort zones in a really fluid manner.
“One of the most important things that we are emphasising on in the current situation is, ‘development’, rather than ‘performance’. What really matters is an employee’s development in an effective manner, and that can only happen when it’s a discussed and agreed response.”
According to Rajeev Singh, CHRO, ATG Tires, “It calls for a total review of each and every element of the HR policies, practices and mindset to make it relevant. We look at what will actually change or has changed and how to redefine our current people’s policies and procedures to support the ‘new normal’ way of working.”
The tire manufacturer has been undertaking a lot of initiatives for its employees, be it giving them a real-life experience virtually or driving an inclusive wellness programme.
To begin with, ATG’s Wellness Initiative is an inclusive drive for wellness, involving the people from within the organisation — junior and mid-level managers, and even the leadership team. Under the programme, videos are created that help employees remain calm and peaceful in today’s challenging and disruptive times. The best part is that, instead of hiring somebody to give lectures on wellness and undertake wellness sessions, the Company is getting its own internal people to talk about such topics. Covering almost every age group, this wellness initiative was conceptualised with the theme – ‘By the people and for the people’.
Singh believes that peer inspiration and learning is the best approach to help employees come out of their shackles, bury their stress and connect more with their colleagues or teammates.
“On a daily basis, some people are uploading videos on yoga sessions, while others are sharing their diet and daily routine, while working from home. Some are even giving out personal insights on work-life balance,” he adds.
Moreover, the Company has assigned a doctor who holds a webinar only for ATG employees, which is covered globally. Singh admits that they are facing one challenge here, and that is of getting people from different time zones connected at the same time.
“Wellness is something which you can’t impose on somebody, it has to be voluntary”, Singh believes.
Birthday celebrations were always a great opportunity for employees to get together at the workplace and bond over informal conversations. But would that be possible in the new normal?
For Singh, the ultimate goal in the new normal was to give employees the real experience through the virtual platform.
“WFH didn’t stop us from celebrating birthdays. We still have birthday celebrations, virtually, complete with live songs and music, and employees joining in. Not even for a moment do we feel we are not in the office. The idea is to get all the employees to connect, bond and feel happy,” points out Singh.
Talking about performance management, Singh mentions that it was kept on hold for a few months because there were other priorities to focus on. However, now, ATG’s internal performance management system, called PREP — short for Performance Review and Enhancement Programme — is back in action.
Going ahead with the performance management cycle with PREP 2020, the management has tried to make it relevant in terms of goal and review settings, to make the best use of it.
Singh says, “It is not just about reviewing performance but also about enhancing the performance level of employees. Therefore, one of the most important things that we are emphasising in the current situation is ‘development’, rather than ‘performance’. What really matters is an employee’s development in an effective manner, and that can only happen when it’s a discussed and agreed response.”
Typically, a management system comes with increments, bonuses and ratings. For Singh, however, in the current situation, these rewards seem to be vague. “Companies may or may not give out increments, but what can be really worked on is ‘development’. The delivery can be different and performance can be improved,” he adds.
Earlier, for cost efficiency, the Company had frozen hiring, suspended merit increase, imposed pay cuts for employees, re-examined contracts with vendors, reduced training costs through internal trainers, offered free online courses, and focused on automation and leaner manning of the plants.
With a change in planning, ATG is currently partnering with businesses for increased automation of plant operations. It is using social-networking sites rather than recruitment consultants, and promoting employee referrals.
The Company is also honouring its commitment to campus hiring. Earlier, it had hired around 30 people from various engineering colleges who were supposed to join in the month of June. However, with the situation getting worse, the hiring has been postponed to September.
Engagement and role assessment
“As far as engagement is concerned, we have started arranging virtual meetings between the managers and the employees to ensure that they connect online,” he adds.
Earlier, while redesigning the organisational structure, additional tasks were assigned to employees and they were mobilised across departments.
However, with a new set of priorities in place, ATG is now distinguishing between critical and non-critical roles, defining and qualifying replacements for critical role holders, reassessing roles and defining the roles and responsibilities of the position holder, to prevent overlapping and reduction of roles.
Earlier, to protect the business and employees from the effects of the inevitable slowdown, the top management at ATG announced a temporary pay cut for three months, which will be over in July.
The manufacturing plants in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Israel are presently operational with 100 per cent workforce. “Although there are no restrictions at the moment, it is a challenge to keep the employees safe as they are commuting every day, increasing their chances of contact with other people,” adds Singh with concern.
He also mentions, that due to a rise in the number of cases in Mumbai, the corporate office is currently shut.