In a freewheeling chat, a handful of industry leaders, who have refused to let COVID-19 dampen their spirits, spoke candidly at a virtual round table about their business continuity plans (BCP). Incidentally, this bunch of zealots is working harder than usual to navigate their businesses into safer environments.
The COVID-19 pandemic exploded the business world, not giving the leaders much time to prepare themselves for this unprecedented situation. “At the onset of it, the first step was to enable our people to work from home (WFH) and promptly build tech infrastructure to keep them productive. We have seen myths being broken with regard to WFH as 80 to 90 percent of our staff are now able to work effectively from home,” expressed Nandini Bhatnagar, marketing & communication head, Sun Life.
On the other hand, the state of things is very different with Tata Motors Finance. While the work hours for HR have increased drastically, the retail units are facing roadblocks on account of immature IT systems and manual processes.
Mohith Mohan, DVP and site leader, Hudson’s Bay, opines, “We implemented 100 per cent WFH capabilities and also equipped our people with dual monitors for ease of working.”
“The WFH challenges and solutions are similar, beyond geographical boundaries as well,” points out Raymond Victorino, TA head, Samsung Electronics, who logged in from The Philippines.
“The mere definition of employee engagement has undergone a sea of change,” stated Mohan quoting Narayan Murthy who said, “Our assets walk out of the door each evening. We have to make sure that they come back the next morning.” Definitely, engaging employees who continue to stay back home is no easy task, but leaders have devised innovative strategies to overcome that.
These business leaders are primarily professing the importance of mental and physical health amongst their people. On the employee-engagement canvas, a very colourful image was created with initiatives, such as mindfulness, yoga, fitness contests on one hand and video messages and webinars by CEOs on the other. To this was added a dash of music, food and light chit-chats before meetings.
Summing up the engagement activity in his organization, Punit Puri, CHRO, Tata Motors Finance, said, “We are keeping our employees motivated in these trying times by applying the principles of ‘recharge’ and ‘reconnect’.”
With more than a month of lockdown, we are certain that employees of any organization require regular recharging and reconnecting. At Tata Motors Finance, sharing WFH selfies and exhibiting one’s passion through pictures helps uplift spirits, and by taking their townhall to Zoom, senior leaders have been able to connect with thousands of their employees virtually.
Business continuity planning requires keeping one eye on the future. It is very clear that some of the phenomena guiding today’s decision-making are temporary, but the impact on practices and policies will be long lasting. For instance, Samsung Philippines plans to branch out into digital retail — a great opportunity waiting to be tapped. Likewise, Sun Life had a few digital projects in the pipeline set for three years or more, but the same have been expedited to yield results in three months!
To remain competitive in the market, businesses are tapping opportunities in the digital space. For instance, Hudson’s Bay plans to venture into retail, with digital and non-digital stores.
The automation drive is gathering steam in the current scenario, which has proved to be a silver lining in keeping businesses going. Business leaders are more convinced now than ever, that technologies, such as IoT, AI and augmented reality, are necessary to stay ahead in the new ergonomics.
The attendees expressed their opinions on going digital, full blast, in the times to come. Adopting recruitment software and AI-based application tracking systems (ATS) are a top priority for Victorino who said, “We get thousands of applications, and AI will help us shortlist in just a few seconds.” Some leaders have been using chatbots to engage their employees and have found them to be advantageous to run ad hoc campaigns and touch base with thousands of employees working remotely.
It was indeed an insightful session, moderated by Sanjay Baxla, senior VP-HR, DLF, and can be summed up under three points as follows:
- All organizations across industries and geographies have similar people challenges, despite unique business needs, outlook and uncertainties.
- Be it people decisions or business strategies, seeds are being sown to yield long-term results. In other words, WFH is the new normal and contactless engagement is the way forward.
- Businesses are being pushed to adapt technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and that will be the biggest differentiator between a successful and an unsuccessful organization.