2020: What to learn – what to erase
We witnessed a simultaneous transformation of work, workforce and workplace in 2020. Organisations were compelled to be agile and accelerate their creative adaptation to the disruptive business landscape, by integrating new collaborative technologies, adapting to hybrid work arrangements and focusing on a total wellness quotient for their employees. It is no longer about survival of the fittest, but survival of those who can re-adapt the fastest. However, irrespective of the recent COVID-related crisis, the business landscape had already become highly dynamic with VUCA being the new normal for some time now. Therefore, the challenge was to convert different disruptive elements into opportunities. We had to navigate a delicate and sensitive terrain by being compassionately ruthless in taking certain difficult people decisions. We had to optimise our headcount and cost structure, and manage business sustainability to ensure continuity of a larger employee community. This is definitely something that I would want to erase and not wish repeated in the near future.
HR has shown great agility and business acumen
I firmly believe the HR’s transformation journey into a ‘value creator’, had started well before the coronavirus outbreak. Today’s turbulent times offer an opportunity for HR to play a dual role of ‘navigator’ and ‘anchor’. As a navigator, HR has to guide the organisation to overcome the turbulence by driving the transformation agenda, which will prepare the organisation to develop anti fragility and ensure long-term sustainability. As an anchor, it must lead the people agenda to ensure business as usual in unusual times. This would mean ensuring health, safety and well-being of staff; taking difficult but objective decisions to tide over the cost management challenges; continuing with employee connect and engagement; building futuristic capabilities, preparing employees for the new way of working; and focussing on the employer brand to ensure that it continues to attract and retain the right talent. Human resources need to have a clear line of sight of what the business is doing in the marketplace, and the changing customer preferences, technology trends, and regulatory dynamics. This knowledge has to be then converted into organisational capabilities, to future proof the business. As a business function, HR has to create a talent ecosystem, which in turn can create enormous value for the enterprise.
“As a business function, HR has to create a talent ecosystem, which in turn can create enormous value for the enterprise”
Mental health of employees
At the Times Group, our objective has been to proactively design and implement programmes focused on building a positive mindset and promoting healthy practices. For instance, we have focused on ensuring a balance of mind, body and soul, through our umbrella initiative ‘In It Together’. It promotes a sense of belongingness and togetherness amongst our employees. Our wellness programmes and initiatives foster the development of agility and resilience in our workforce, not only for business continuity in these unusual times, but also to build a ‘fit for future’ organisation. We believe it is our responsibility to take a step ahead of others in introducing innovative practices, to promote our employees’ mental well being and total wellness quotient.
Shift of talent calculus to more buy-and- rent and less build
In today’s networked and symbiotic business world, talent is being redefined, as any capability across the employee continuum — whether direct or indirect workforce, internal or external resources, or anybody who creates economic value for the enterprise. Talent is no longer physically restricted to any space and time. People management is less about extracting performance from an organised few, and more about curating contribution from limitless many.
The ultimate goal of our talent strategy is to arrive at the ideal talent recipe for the next strategic business cycle, which provides a capability sweet spot. This maximises flexibility and facilitates access to the right skills, while simultaneously minimising cost. We need to re-imagine talent with futuristic roles classified into core roles, which add value to the balance sheet, and also roles that can be managed through associated partnerships. I’m also quite certain that organisations will soon come to realise the benefits of the ‘gig talent’ model and transition into leaner ‘on demand’ organisational structures. After identifying the critical roles required to achieve business outcomes, organisations need to identify the right talent continuum, with an effective mix of ‘build, buy and lease’.