Will safety measures at firms be deciding factor for candidates?

With jobs hard to come by, safety concerns may not last very long feel some HR experts

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India is slowly and steadily returning to normalcy after a year of pandemic-riddled existence. Many organisations have already asked their employees to report back to work and have introduced many hybrid models to ensure safety. The Government has issued a host of guidelines to companies that are opening their doors to the new and old employees to revert to the post COVID-19 era. With that in mind, safety concerns may be on the minds of many job aspirants when they decide on an organisation. The last one year has given them enough reasons to look for a company, which takes care of its employee. Therefore, any organisation, with adequate measures in place, can be seen as a favourable place to work.

While absence of any safety measures will fail to attract candidates, more of that may not be a USP either.

Lalit Kar, senior VP & head – HR, Reliance Digital,

However, the HR experts that HRKatha spoke to, while being optimistic about safety measures being an important selling proposition to get better hires, do not think it will last for long. Ravi Mishra, senior vice president – HR, global epoxy business, Adity Birla Group, is quite confident that six to nine months down the line, the concern will weaken. “Safety can be a concern for candidates after resumption of normal working environment, but it won’t be so for long. Post six-nine months, it will get diluted. The pandemic is an extraordinary situation. Even if organisations employ safety measures at their workplaces, normal life will remain the same. People will follow the standard norms of social distancing, and use of sanitisers and masks. However, employees will be exposed to many areas before reaching their office.”

We are travelling everywhere and conducting interviews. Candidates are also coming in for interviews. Typically, in the pharma industry, we have safety protocols, which are well established from a health point of view

Ajay Tewari, VP-HR, Lupin

Mishra believes that mass unemployment, inability of small and medium companies to provide jobs and the fact that people have already become quite callous about the pandemic, will add to the reduction of safety concerns. Speaking of the changes that have taken place at his organisation, Mishra reveals, “Wearing masks is mandatory now and seating arrangements have been changed from three to two work stations in a particular area. We will try to minimise physical contact as much as possible. We already have automated doors, our taps work on sensors in the restrooms, face or retina scan has been introduced, and in the canteen we have three clusters to avoid crowding. Once the capacity is full, people will not be allowed in.”

However, Ajay Tewari, VP-HR, Lupin, believes nothing extra needs to be done to get employees on board. “We are travelling everywhere and conducting interviews. Candidates are also coming in for interviews. Typically, in the pharma industry, we have safety protocols, which are well established from a health point of view. Post the pandemic, people have learned how to conduct these things.”

Safety can be a concern for candidates after resumption of normal working environment, but it won’t be so for long. Post six-nine months, it will get diluted.

Ravi Mishra, senior vice president – HR, global epoxy business, Adity Birla Group

Reliance Infrastructure (RIL) has taken a host of measures in the last 11 months to ensure the safety of its employees. Work-from-home (WFH) was initiated at RIL about 10 days prior to the lockdown, enabling employees to adapt and settle in at rapid-fire pace. When India was struggling for want of PPEs, RIL started manufacturing PPEs and became the largest PPE manufacturer in the country. A large part of the PPEs went to the COVID warriors in government hospitals and municipalities, free of cost. The Company also established tie-ups with hospitals across the country for free treatment of all its employees and their family members. Lalit Kar, senior VP & head – HR, Reliance Digital, informs, “The retail stores operated with two batches in a month, each batch with 50 per cent of the total employee count in the stores working for 15 days, and the remaining 50 per cent staying following home quarantine.” This arrangement was followed to reduce chances of infection in case anyone in a store contracted the virus. At a time when the employment situation was gloomy, Reliance Retail strengthened its e-commerce/ Jio Mart and built last-mile delivery capability. “Our recruitment across formats was in full swing. In these difficult times, our leaders and HR ensured that ’employee connect’ remained very high,” claims Kar.

In employee surveys, organisation’s commitment to employees’ health and safety has been rated as one of the highest. “Importantly, even after the lifting of restrictions and the situation, in general, inching towards normalcy, our attrition has been significantly low, and attraction of high-quality talent has been impressive,” reveals Kar, who also believes that while absence of any safety measures will fail to attract candidates, more of that may not be a USP.

It is true that the pandemic has taught both employers and employees to ask difficult questions and safety protocols will definitely be of concern. However, it remains to be seen as to how long that stays as a criterion for accepting an offer for a candidate who is already hard-pressed for a job.

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