“Managers will have to quickly change gears,” Sriharsha Achar

Sriharsha Achar, Jt. ED & CHRO, Star Health & Allied Insurance, believes that the calamity of 2020 has presented a rare opportunity for HR to take the lead in driving organisational stability and strength.



2020: What to learn – what to erase

Remote working has turned mainstream, and this is the biggest boon for the workplace. With cities locked down, organisations across the globe had to make a mandatory shift towards remote working.

What I would like to erase from memory is the fact that the economy has suffered the most leading to a number of social, political and other issues. The global economic fallout of the pandemic will continue to remain a challenge for us in the times to come, as we saw during the 2008 economic recession. A setback of this magnitude requires many years to return to normal.

HR has shown great agility and business acumen

The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented crisis, with severe economic consequences. Nobody knows how long the crisis will last. I believe that HR, along with IT, was uniquely positioned to lead enterprises to recovery, initially. Now HR should play a vital leadership role in shaping the way enterprises recruit and develop talent, and take care of experiences, and break away from traditional operating models, to achieve work outcomes. At the beginning, HR played a crucial role in managing the COVID-19 response at an organisational level. Human resources has been the driving force in keeping the workforce and organisation engaged, productive and resilient. The COVID crisis has illustrated the true value of HR and has proven the importance of investing in flexible and robust HR processes and structures. As shocking as the calamity is, it also introduces a rare opportunity for HR to rebuild and take the lead in driving organisational stability and strength. Now that we are past the ‘respond’
phase, HR needs to materialise on this opportunity. The time has come for HR to reimagine not only its own future, but also the future of the business/enterprise.


Phygital workforce will want to have the best of both – WFH and WFO

2021 – changing organisational design

I clearly see four work playgrounds emerging as we move ahead post COVID. The ‘digital workforce’ that will prefer remote working, the ‘physical workforce’ that will prefer working from the office, the ‘phygital workforce’ that will want to have the best of both — WFH and WFO — and finally the ‘gig workforce’ that will have its own preferences dominated by the kind of work they do. The skill sets required by managers and leaders to manage each of these work groups will be different, and hence, there is a need for organisations to focus on skilling them appropriately and adequately, to ensure that managerial and leadership support is available. I also see a new set of leaders emerging from each of these groups. I say this because the skills that were required pre-COVID and those required post-COVID to manage people have also undergone change. Managers of that era will need to quickly change gears else the new set will quickly overtake them from a skillset point of view.

Organisations will, therefore, have to map their workforce in the above categories and provide appropriate environments to ensure connectedness and engagement. All organisations may not be able to offer WFH to all employees, and hence, I also see some limitations being faced by hiring managers when recruiting new employees, who may not have any of the above four preferences when looking for a job. So, different work types, new set of leaders, demand for new set of skills and workforce mapping are my four predictions for 2021.


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