“Leadership and managerial mindset will have to change,” Maneesha Jha Thakur

Maneesha Jha Thakur, business strategy consultant, Growth Assurance says learning is changing direction dramatically due to technology

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A big change in 2022

Decoupling of work and geography will be the focus, with more and more organisations having to address the question, ‘Does work need to be done from a particular space?’ In some cases the answer will be ‘yes’, in others it will be a ‘no’. The discussion around this topic will cover issues such as infrastructure cost, productivity, organisational culture, employee engagement, collaboration, cost of living, commute cost and time, and so on. We will need to wrestle with the issues, experiment and find our answers.

There are more jobs than we think that allow flexibility of location. Even some parts of production, market facing and business- development jobs can be managed away from designated workplaces or locations. There will be myriad hybrid solutions — weekly division of WFH and office; work-from-anywhere and show up at office for a few days every month; full WFH; flexibility in terms of ‘in’ and ‘out’ time as long as goals are achieved. Organisations may have some overall guidelines and rules for broad areas, but a lot of customisation and decision making will have to be delegated to the managers.

Consequently, we will have to focus on technology solutions to overcome physical distances. Performance assessment will have to be truly achievement driven. Last and probably most important, leadership and managerial mindset will have to change. There is no going back to the ‘golden’ age of universal office presence, and the sooner we start to accept the faster we will adapt.

Great resignation a disguise of a great movement

No, it is a readjustment. The ‘great resignation’ is predicated on pent-up demand in the industry and the re-evaluation of priorities by the employees — They are not leaving the workforce, but only moving from one organisation to another. It is more like the ‘great reshuffle’.

The reasons are many and to me the top ones, apart from the conventional reasons such as better money, designation and so on, are: l Organisations that force employees to report to a particular city, work mainly from office, offer no/less flexibility or choice, will see attrition on an ongoing basis.

Organisations that failed to support employees in their time of need will bear the burden of mistrust, reduced engagement and attrition.

Organisations that wilfully penalised employees financially for no clear reason, reduced benefits, disregarded health-related fears, and failed to support the afflicted will have to live with a downgraded employer branding and a disenchanted workforce, leading to attrition.

Organisations that are unable to show a growth path towards future development will quickly lose people, because after two years of pause employees are in a hurry.

“Organisations that force employees to report to a particular city, work mainly from office, offer no/less flexibility or choice, will see attrition on an ongoing basis”

Learning to be driven by social, technology or content?

Learning is changing direction dramatically due to technology. Tech has made distance irrelevant, and online training is the way ahead. The medium is changing the nature of learning, which now needs to be bite sized — a mix of theory and practice, available just in time and customised. Online learning is decades old, but now it is dominantly mainstream, which facilitates better collaboration during learning and wider availability of content. It also democratises learning, by making the same quality of learning opportunity available for one and all, be it the branch office, plant or head office. On the content front, technology has brought in social media and the explosion of content across platforms. This places a huge responsibility in the learning area to deliver impactfully and in short formats, exploiting the creativity of all employees to generate peer-level learning.

If we have watched and laughed at sketches on performance appraisals, bad managers, HR and so on, why can’t we have a fun sketch of how to do a great appraisal interview that would be forwarded voluntarily? Finally, the socio-political movements in the last decade have brought in the factors of fairness, non discrimination and personal rights into focus. These will have to be translated into learning programmes of leadership excellence.

The content will also need to be sensitised to the new reality. Learning may also have to focus on collaboration and working together in the times of deeply divisive political beliefs that are seeping into every life decision. The dos and don’ts of discussions and rules of engagement need to be laid out and ingrained.

Working for money to working for a purpose

Earlier, the purpose was to be successful and financially stable, by aligning oneself with the purpose of the organisation. Work was at the centre of living — for sustenance and defining identity.

This purpose has now changed. Employees focus more on holistic satisfaction in life — balanced work timings, more family time, nurturing relationships, fulfilling passions, creating an equitable family dynamic between partners, and being healthy and engaging in social causes. The organisation is not the centre of their existence. The new employees will commit to the organisation’s goal only if the organisation helps them achieve their life goals.

On the financial front, the new breed is keener to explore entrepreneurship to create wealth in a shorter time than a lifelong trudge to a mediocre retirement.

Voice for change among employees getting stronger

In India, we have a more questioning workforce around the immediate issues that impact them, such as compensation, career growth, HR policies especially health benefits, WFH and so on, and management style. In these areas, they look for transparency and fairness. I don’t see this as a new or a particularly disruptive trend.

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