It is a widely-held belief that COVID-19 is the biggest disruptor, but nothing can beat the monumental shift that has taken place at the workplace in its wake. All things remote was a possibility that was still being debated and discussed, when, all of a sudden, a pandemic trapped everyone in their houses to stay safe, and yet business went on as usual. Due to this remote-working setup, the issues and situations that organisations faced before either escalated to something completely new or just vanished.
In the midst of all this, companies held on to their value systems, keeping diversity in the employee structure intact. Most of the hiring and onboarding happened online through zoom calls. While digital did make life a lot easier this year, human interactions still manage to be the most coveted pursuit. Given the fact that there is a severe dearth of physical proximity now, there have been instances of existing employees not immediately warming up to the new hires or the generation gap widening. While speaking to HR experts, it became evident that such issues in the digital world can be addressed with better communication and connection.
SV Nathan, partner & chief talent officer, Deloitte India
Jayant Kumar, joint president – HR, Adani Group, says that initially it did appear a little out of the ordinary, but very quickly people adjusted and got accustomed to it. “Honestly, I feel it depends on the effectiveness of the concerned managers. If they take proactive steps and understand its necessity, it can be done easily. I found that my managers were extra careful, making everyone comfortable and getting them included in the group. So far, we haven’t faced any such issues. In fact, we are noticing this other phenomena where people are reaching out more to include and assimilate the new person to make up for the loss of physical proximity,” he informs.
Kumar explains that currently everything is challenging, because these processes did not really exist as a permanent feature. Many of these systems were created and designed to cater to every aspect of employee care in the present scenario. The discovery is also not easy. One may not know whom to reach out to. All that requires a cautious approach in terms of people management.
Emmanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre (TMTC)
Deloitte has more than 85 per cent millennials in their workforce, and interestingly, millennials are hiring millennials there. Therefore, there is a match of wavelength and it is done with real care and caution. SV Nathan, partner and chief talent officer, Deloitte India, says, “The right kind of people interacting with the new joinees can resolve a lot of issues. A key part of this is buddying up with people — have somebody close to the new person that has joined. In today’s context, the amount of support system one builds is staggering. For everything there is an effort. One also needs a wise person in the system who can spend time with a new joinee.”
Nathan reveals that the organisation has a Candid Conversation corner, where employees can write their issues and complaints regarding anyone including their reporting manager. The concerned HR manager then addresses the issue, resolves it and even informs the employee about the course of action being taken. This helps give closure, Nathan asserts.
Jayant Kumar, Jt president – HR, Adani Group
In a digital framework, picking up non-verbal clues is almost impossible, as Zoom calls aren’t always natural. Reading body gestures is a passé now and that’s why, more the dialogue the better. Emanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre (TMTC), feels clarity of outcomes is more important than the tasks. Although he has never really faced any such situations, he does believe if there is a discord somewhere, it could be because of insecurity and uncertainty of the present times. “Listening to them and appreciating their good work are really important. As leaders, we need to create opportunities for them to perform. There are some people who try to test people. I don’t think that’s the right attitude. Some people feel we are paying them and so, we should check them out. Onus is more on the managers to ask questions and give suggestions.” David also asserts that it depends largely on the mindsets of the concerned people.
Whether or not a new joinee feels comfortable being part of an existing team depends on the managers. Extra caution and care are the success mantras while dealing with a remote working workforce and their emerging issues.