As the country has shut down to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, organisations have implemented work from home without much warning or preparation. This certainly calls for a different type of leadership, to be able to inspire these employees and also help them stay calm and connected.
Remote employees direly need motivation and a supporting hand to stay calm and work in a smooth manner. Therefore, HR leaders are opening up to new ways of remote leadership to guide the employees through these troubling times.
HRKatha spoke to various HR leaders about their remote leadership and behavioural aspects during this lockdown period.
Managing remote employees requires more than just giving employees a laptop and following up before the day ends. Communication is the ultimate key and remote leaders should have understood it by now.
Unless you are authentic as a remote HR leader, you will lose credibility much faster than in a normal work culture
According to a survey by Future Workforce, 80 per cent of the workers said they would have better relationships if their team communicated with them more often while working remotely. The study found that two-thirds of remote workers aren’t engaged and over a third never get any face time with their team. Yet over 40 per cent felt in-person meetings would help build deeper relationships.
Harshvendra Soin, chief people officer, Tech Mahindra, believes in the leadership staying e-connected with the employees during this difficult period.
During this crisis, Soin says, “We are e-connected with our employees at various levels. For us, being aware of the well-being of our employees is the first step of communication, followed by work.”
“Since remote working is relatively new for most of us, we are striving hard to keep our employees motivated and inspired. As the situation gets tough, the mind needs to be stable, to be able to deal with the stigma of the new work environment,” he adds.
As communication is the key, Soin makes it a point to send out personal messages and videos to his employees on a daily basis.
Responding to the current situation, Girish Menon, CHRO, Swiggy, says, “There is a lot of anxiety in the overall system and it is important and challenging to keep communication strong with the employees. We have to deal with a set of employees who will be super engaged, while the others may be disengaged.”
In troubling times like these, employees seek a leader who understands and empathises with their circumstances. Having believed in this firm leadership practice, Soin asserts, “During this lockdown period, the painful scenario around the world is pushing us to be more empathetic towards our employees, beyond the workplace.”
As a flexible work schedule is considered to be the most sought after employee benefits today, Indrajeet Sengupta, chief human resources officer, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, believes in a similar work environment and considers it to be a game changer in the long run.
Sengupta explains, “Technological advances have paved the way for remote workers to accomplish everything at a distance. And we have followed the flexibility in working hours not only at the workplace but even during remote work.”
The best relationships are built through regular face-to-face contact. Therefore, getting to know employees with minimal physical interaction can be difficult.
As modern age leaders, Soin says, “It is our call of duty to inspire our employees, get them charged up and do the work remotely. In a professional environment, there is no positional power at work, but remotely, the power of ‘relationship’ helps to stay connected with the clients and the team members.”
It is our call of duty to inspire our employees, get them charged up and do the work remotely
Menon on the other hand, believes in the shift in three areas, such as mindset, tools set and skills set.
As we are dealing with a critical situation, Menon continues, “It is important for us to behave differently and communicate adequately. As a remote leader, if you address these three areas, you will positively make people productive and engaged.”
“I believe in wellness over business,” says Soin.
“As far as expectations are concerned, we work to keep our clients on foot, and therefore, can’t afford to miss the deadlines. As most of our clients are working in the essential segment, the idea is to fulfil the commitment to the clients. But it comes only after the safety of our employees.”
Swiggy is also a part of essential services, but Menon has a different approach when it comes to ensuring productivity, especially when employees are working from home. As some customers are solely dependent on them, Menon says, “We like to ensure that the service is on the run. It is a period where we are concerned about the employees’ safety, fulfilling the customer’s expectations and ensuring the business continuity, all at the same time.”
“In this period, when leaders are watching, the ones who stand out and take ownership as individuals, will be noticed and considered for future prospects,” Menon adds.
HCCB’s Sengupta believes in the leadership of visibility, as he thinks an HR leader has no longer a fixed role to play.
“With the current changes in the work structure, the complexity of the job has suddenly changed and become multi-folded for HR leaders, which means leadership has to become more visible,” Sengupta states.
According to him, visibility in a digital mode also means to be hyper connected with every employee, making them feel included in this difficult journey. He feels, “People generally look for leaders who are hyper communicative, hyper inclusive and genuinely care for people they represent.”
Given the flood of information on social media, some of which is dubious, companies are focused on giving employees reliable information. Remote employees should reach out to their leaders for any piece of information, which, in a way, builds a trust factor between the two.
In this period, when leaders are watching, the ones who stand out and take ownership as individuals, will be noticed and considered for future prospects
A recent online survey in 10 countries revealed that more employees believe information from their company than from other sources, such as government websites or traditional media.
Commenting on the trust placed by remote employees on their leaders, Sengupta asserts, “The latter should be confident enough in what they say and deliver. In the current traumatic situation, where everyone is trying their best to cope up with the remote working culture, remote leaders should avoid being pretentious, while dealing with their employees.”
“Unless you are authentic as a remote HR leader, you will lose credibility much faster than in a normal work culture,” Sengupta adds.