Post World War-II, in the late 1940s, there was a slowdown, characterised by massive layoffs. Companies even let go of their talented employees. A fledgling company back then, Hewlett Packard (HP) grabbed this opportunity. Despite being cash-strapped, it hired many skilled workers who were kicked out from their previous jobs. This worked wonders for the Company. The employees were treated with respect, and they put all their effort into helping the Company grow. It is the trust and respect shown to the workers that made growth possible for the Company during those times.
“Companies are going to figure out new ways of running the business with lesser resources. There is going to be high digitisation, high automation and an emphasis on being leaner as an organisation. This is precisely why it will continue to be an employer’s market for a long time even after COVID.”
We are in a similar situation now. Layoffs are prominent and new jobs are few. Many organisations may presume that the market has changed; that it has become an employer’s market again from being a job-seeker’s or employee’s market a few months ago.
Yes, it’s true that it will continue to be an employer’s market for quite some time. Rajeshwar Tripathi, CHRO, Mahindra and Mahindra, agrees, “Companies are going to figure out new ways of running the business with lesser resources. There is going to be high digitisation, high automation and an emphasis on being leaner as an organisation. This is precisely why it will continue to be an employer’s market for a long time even after COVID.”
Concurs senior HR leader, Rajesh Padmanbhan, “It will continue to be an employer’s market for at least a year from here. Beyond that, it is difficult to predict now and one needs to watch global consumption patterns and how markets respond.”
In such a scenario, many employers may feel that they can dictate terms as employees will be at the receiving end. However, companies that start believing in this philosophy will make a grave mistake.
“I firmly believe that employees have to be treated by everyone as the ‘first customers’ to create ‘winning businesses’ in the new world, and new rules of engagement will take over with high emphasis on life and human care.”
Tripathi says, “How one treats employees has always been of importance and will continue to be so even in these times.”
“In these times, what is obvious is that we need to communicate, and that too with the right context and intent in mind,” points out Emmanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre (TMTC).
Padmanabhan shares, “I firmly believe that employees have to be treated by everyone as the ‘first customers’ to create ‘winning businesses’ in the new world, and new rules of engagement will take over with high emphasis on life and human care.”
“Work will become a subset of life and not the other way around,” he adds.
Organisations have to realise that jobs are scarce but not nil. There are sectors, which are on a growth trajectory post COVID, and are offering jobs.
For instance, the e-commerce space is thriving along with many startups, especially in the healthcare, essential services, food production, fintech and edutech areas, to name a few.
The lockdown has been a game changer for the fintech and edutech industries especially. According to a ManpowerGroup estimate, there are over 90,000 contractual jobs and over 12,000 permanent jobs lying vacant in the edutech industry alone.
The essence of the moment is in strengthening engagement among the employees through better communication and encouraging a better employee – employer relationship. This can be achieved through sensitive dismissals while laying off people, and taking care of the ones who are still a part of the organisation. This is the time to focus on respectful treatment of employees, and proper management of layoffs and phaseouts for a better impact in the long run.
“In these times, what is obvious is that we need to communicate, and that too with the right context and intent in mind.”
In fact, many of the smart and forward-looking companies are already making efforts to strengthen their relationship with the employees. Health and wellbeing have become the highest priority for organisations. Policies have been extended to include family members; counselling sessions and consultations have been made available almost throughout the day, at the cost of the employer; and companies are coming up with creative ways to build more engagement and to spread cheer amongst the employees during these tough times.
This is also the time, when employees can become intrapreneurial and resourceful. It is already understood that with the loss of so many workers in organisations, employees will need to put on many hats to sustain day-to-day operations. This is happening right now. Employees are working hard to find solutions and drive productivity.
In many ways, we have already taken the first step. Going forward, it is hoped, employers will recognise that the foundation for the company’s success lies in the relationships that were/are nurtured.
In these uncertain times, how an organisation treats its employees will be remembered for years to come. How businesses respond will have a lasting impact on employee behaviour, including engagement, loyalty and productivity.