Shifting Workforce Engagement Dynamics - 5 Evolutionary Principles Leaders MUST Follow in Post COVID Scenario...

To win the marketplace, you must first win the workplace.” -Doug Conant


While the industry was grappling and coming to terms with technological disruptions revolutionising the global economic firmament and planning their strategies to leapfrog, the pandemic has created a unique challenge that is unpredictable and the highly complex, accelerating pace of shift and taking it to a new stratosphere.

Time has come for Leadership to rethink their workforce engagement strategies. It is incumbent on Leadership to re-assess existing workforce engagement paradigms in the midst of mammoth shift in business landscape in post COVID Scenario. Workplaces existed to drive collaboration, camaraderie & engagement. Now the challenge is to replicate the similar experience in the virtual world.
Challenges & Emerging New Rules...


Challenge 1 
[Remote Work]

Decentralized teams face a number of challenges that can have damaging consequences if unaddressed - but they can be overcome.

Rule 1- Remote work, once a rare and innovative strategy reserved for tech companies, is no longer a fringe business practice. The IWG 2019 Global Work-Place Survey found that 3 out of 4 workers around the globe consider flexible working to be “the new normal.” This was before the coronavirus pandemic spurred even more organizations to implement remote work policies. The remote work model offers many obvious advantages, from lower overhead and flexible schedules to reductions in employee commuting and an increase in productivity along with low attrition rates.
Challenge 2
[Low-Bandwidth Communication]


Face-to-face communication is considered high bandwidth because you can transmit and receive the greatest amount of information in a given time period. This is possible thanks to all the nonverbal cues and supplementary information those cues convey in a conversation. High-bandwidth communication results in more work getting done. For example, one HBR study found that a face to face request is 34 times more successful than an email. One of the biggest downsides of remote work, then, is the loss of face-to-face communication as companies turn more heavily toward low-bandwidth communication methods like email and chat.

Although written communication can accomplish a lot, it falls short compared with the information exchange and personal connection of face-to-face conversations. Additionally, it is asynchronous, meaning conversations aren’t necessarily happening in real-time. The real-time benefits of face-to-face interaction are lost in the delayed replies and other interruptions sprinkled in between.

Rule 2 : To compensate, video meetings have become the standard alternative for business communication.


Challenge 3
[Unproductive Meetings]

One common mistake leaders make when trying to increase face-to-face communication among remote team members is overcompensating by scheduling more meetings. In fact, a study from OWL labs found that remote workers attend more meetings per week overall, with 14% of remote workers dedicating time to more than 10 meetings per week.

While meetings can bring a team together for knowledge sharing and decision-making, if the only purpose of a meeting is to clock some face-to-face time, it’s probably not worth doing it. Unnecessary meetings are frustrating and costly. Employee time is an organizations most valuable resource, yet 71% of senior managers report that meetings are unproductive and inefficient, and subpar meetings cost billions of dollars in annual losses.

Rule 3: To stem the tide of remote work meetings, try adopting catchphrases like “No meetings without an agenda,” “No unnecessary meetings,” or, an old favorite, “Could this meeting have been an email?” Leaders can also limit the number of internal meeting hours allotted per week, which makes meeting time more valuable and worth conserving. Attendees will likely be more engaged, alert, and motivated to use their precious time wisely. 

Challenge 4
[Loss of Passive Knowledge Sharing]
Finally, remote work generally threatens the informal information sharing and open communication lines facilitated by shared physical spaces. Informal information sharing like this is tricky, but not impossible, to replicate remotely. Set aside the perception that informal conversations are tangential, nonessential, or unrelated to the organization’s goals.

Rule 4 - Teams can also benefit from virtual gatherings and chats with no formal conversational structure or agenda. Think “watercooler chat room,” where team members can engage in non-work-related conversation as they would at the office. These unstructured conversations can reveal experiences and ideas that otherwise would have remained unexpressed — and keep team members connected on a personal level. There is great value in knowing how team members think, what they’re working on, and what their challenges are.

5 Evolutionary Principles Every 
Leader Must Remember

Maintain Transparent & Consistent Communication.


When employees work from home, they can feel disconnected from their organisations. It has been determined that most effective communication has 5 characteristics: It’s frequent, transparent, part of a two-way dialogue, easy to navigate, and consistent. These communication principles are useful in general, but they’re crucial when a company’s workforce is distributed.

Provide support for Physical & 
Mental Health

In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s not surprising that many employees pointed to company-sponsored COVID-19 tests, masks, and flu vaccines as positive actions. Large number of employees praised the steps to foster mental wellness and help them combat social isolation. 

Social isolation among remote workers is not a new challenge — in fact, 6 of every 10 remote workers reported that they felt isolated before COVID-19 — but the pandemic has helped bring the issue into focus. The most effective step to battle isolation is regular check-ins by managers to see how their employees are doing personally and professionally.


Help Distributed Employees Stay 
Productive & Engaged

Remote work can boost productivity, particularly on stand-alone tasks that require minimal coordination with colleagues. When employees need to collaborate with other teams, however, working from home may decrease productivity. One effective short-term step is for leaders to acknowledge that productivity may dip during the lockdown and to let employees know that it is acceptable.

Frequent, short meetings can boost productivity. Employees might grumble about meetings under normal circumstances, but many COVID-19 Pulse of HR respondents said that daily team huddles helped them remain focused and engaged while working remotely. Structured mechanisms to share best practices and tips on remote work were also popular.

Executives and board members at one company used their twice-per-week all-hands meetings to share examples of what was working (and not working) while remote, and another company collected and relayed employees’ success stories on its intranet.


Manage the Paradox of Remote 
Work-Life Balance.

When it comes to work-life balance, remote work poses a paradox. On the one hand, working from home cuts down on commuting and allows people to adjust their schedules and spend more time with their families. On the other hand, remote work can leave employees feeling like they must be available 24-7 and work more hours, and it can blur the boundary between their professional and personal lives. 

Various Research has consistently shown that remote workers log more hours than their onsite counterparts. A Gallup poll conducted before the COVID-19 outbreak found that U.S. employees worked an extra hour per day when working remotely, but a study by NordVPN found that remote workers have been logged on for two to three more hours per day during the quarantine than they were before the lockdown. When remote work is mandatory and children’s schools and daycare facilities are closed, it is, of course, even harder to maintain the boundary between work and professional life. 

The most popular way to help employees manage work-life balance is making allowances for them to adjust their schedules to accommodate personal obligations.

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Strategic Priorities


Before the COVID-19 outbreak, more than 70% of S&P 500 companies published strategic priorities - forward-looking objectives that focus an organisation’s attention on the handful of choices that matters most to success in the future. Common strategic priorities included improving products and services, accelerating innovation, making operations more efficient, developing talent, and executing a digital transformation, among others. 

It’s understandable that a once-in-a-lifetime crisis would distract leaders from their existing priorities, but it’s also a mistake. In many cases, strategic objectives set before COVID-19 will remain as important or even more critical in the future. The shift to remote work, however, creates new challenges to achieving these objectives. Gaining market share is hard under the best of circumstances, let alone when market demand is collapsing. 

Leaders must figure out how to build and sustain a healthy corporate culture when most employees are working from home. 

Remote work is here to stay and will bring new challenges and opportunities. Organizations and leaders around the world are experimenting with novel management practices to manage the transition to a more distributed workforce. We are still in the early days, and it’s not yet clear which of these approaches will endure.


This article has been written in collaboration with Dr. Arun Sacher, my co-author of Book Titled - Go & Get Your Success - A Kaleidoscope of Leadership Models that Unshackles Usual Patterns.

[Views expressed are personal]




About the Author -

Raj Gupta, Author of Multiple Books & Award-Winning HR Leader with 25+ Years of Experience


Dr. Arun Sacher, An Educationist with 30 years of experience with Top multinationals and premium academic institutions.

3 Golden C's of HR - Future of HRM in Post COVID Scenario...


When the SARS virus hit China in early 2000, a small e-commerce company called ‘Alibaba’ came into existence. It is now firmly established as a leading retailer in Asia. The most innovative ideas and solutions sometimes take birth in times of crisis or when we face great constraints. The current pandemic has crippled the way businesses operate and has forced people to think of new ideas and bring fresh perspectives on the table.

In Present times the Key Questions in front of HR are:

1] How can HR professionals contribute to the highest value?
2] How can they create and deliver people strategies that upkeep the achievement of business strategy?
3] How can they turn people management into a differentiating advantage, a core competence that drives superior performance?
4] How can work from home (WFH) be equally effective as regular work from the office?
5] How can HR move from being seen as just an implementer of decisions already taken by business leaders to be a source of capability and competence that enables ever more ambitious strategies to be accomplished?

Current crisis has also laid down the need for pre-requisite of thorough expert education and background for HR professionals that can prepare them to be analytical and strategic, ready to face challenges, thoughtful communicators, skilled negotiators, savvy business professionals, astute Change Agents, and Expert HR generalist or Specialist.

Human Resource Professionals today are supposed to manage business interruption, Re-invent Work From Home strategies, Redesign jobs to suit the need of the present environment and manage productivity. They are also supposed to manage New age performance management system, New Career models, and a new model of leadership.

As the transactional spectrum of HR is largely getting outsourced, the role of HR can be broadly defined in 3 categories. 


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CONSULTANT

As a consultant, HR will play a multifaceted role - develop contextual strategic people intervention, facilitate skill development amongst managerial teams to solve complex human differences, improve business performance through enhanced employee morale, help Managers in managing change and at the same time, consulting them on how to become people leaders who command respect, not because of their position but a disposition, thereby, enhancing overall organization profile. Business Acumen, Ability to anticipate trends, Change Management, Research orientation are the few skills that will play a critical role in making HR Consultant a success.

CONSCIOUS KEEPER

As a Conscious Keeper, HR will celebrate vision, mission and value and ensure that same is weaved into organization culture. The employee will imbibe these in their code of conduct across the level. While working across the level, HR will also need to ensure that they do not hesitate in being conscience keeper of the leadership team who may have their line of sight on short term performance metrics keeping in view ever-evolving business landscape amidst gigantic technological shifts. HR will help Leadership to navigate through the change while remaining a torchbearer of value system in the organization ensuring that behaviuors of its leaders never transgress the bounds of decency irrespective of their hierarchical positioning.

CUSTODIAN

As a custodian, HR will not only ensure compliance with global regulations that govern employment relationships worldwide to avoid any potential harm to organization reputation but also act as a custodian of "people experiences" as progressive organizations are quickly shifting away from the idea of "people as assets" to "people as the fuel" driving organisational growth.

About the Authors --
No alt text provided for this image
Raj Gupta, Author of Multiple Books & Award-Winning HR Leader with 25+ Years of Experience
Dr. Arun Sacher, An Educationist with 30 years of experience with Top multinationals and premium academic institutions.

101 Most Fabulous HR Tech Leaders Award - I owe it to my career influencers!

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it" - William Arthur Ward

Having received "Global HR Excellence “Exemplary Leader Award” at the Asia Pacific HRM Congress’ 2010, bestowed with  "100 HR Super Achievers" in India by WHRD Congress 2018, 'Top HR Influencer & Author" by IHRC in 2019 for contribution in HR Arena, it feels amazing to be now counted amongst "101 Most Fabulous HR Tech Leaders" bestowed by World HRD Congress in association with ET Now on 15th Feb-2020 at Hotel Taj Land End Bandra, Mumbai in a ceremony where more than 1000 delegates from 130+ Countries participated.



Getting Industry recognition is not only a privilege, however, also an opportunity to express gratitude to various leaders, colleagues and friends who have contributed immensely in unlocking your potential and shaping your career. 

Here is the list of my Leaders without whom I won't be there where I am today! 

I can't thank them enough ever!  Making an effort to pay forward by sharing my learnings & nurturing talent...

Vineet Sharma for instilling confidence in me, showing me through his deeds what Leadership is all about which helped me not only build a solid career foundation, however, also helped in my becoming a fine human being. 

Lex Hoekstra taught me what it means when we say "Respect for Individual" and how tough guys get going when it get tough.


Joan Amble taught me art of appreciation, coaching & guiding people to achieve their potential. 


Srikant Karra for giving me my first break in HR post ops stint and helped me excel in the art of HR transactional spectrum which was a pre-requisite to build a solid HR foundation.


Atul Chugh emphasis and push on developing team members "Lift them and they will lift you", was crucial in helping me develop career facilitation & coaching skills.


Saurabh Govil for  giving me a chance to work in HRBP role & showing confidence that a successful HR shared services Employee can be a fine Mainstream HR too!


Rohit Bhayana for kicking me hard to develop Business Acumen, Change Management and cultural transformation skills.


Biplab Adhya for Perceived Connotation - Always see it from other point of view. Best of intention can go wrong if you don't. 


Pratap G for Executive Suaveness, HR strategy, different strokes for different folks and Empowerment


Piyush Mehta for relationship building and how to navigate  through organizational interpersonal dynamics.


Vivek Gour for guiding me in his own inimitable style at crucial career juncture and telling me the skills that I need to build to rub shoulder with big daddies and also highlighting potential risks.


Ashish Khera : Operational Excellence & bias for action.


Sriharsha Achar for empowerment and creating engaging and happy workplaces.


Nipun Bhatia for pushing me to go beyond normal work approaches and build industry connect & credentials. 


Ranjan Bandyopadhyay for helping me evolve and add significantly to my experiential learning's and providing guidance and support at every critical juncture while exposing me to different facets of HR with scale and complexities including cultural sensitivity exposure through an international stint.


Nupur Mallick helped me learn how to adapt to shifting dynamics, significance of working on unconscious bias while giving me an opportunity to interface with Lynda Gratton who really made me sit up and think about future of HR & HR practices. 


Pramod Bhasin, Tiger" NV Tyagarajan, Afzal Modak, Abidali Neemuchwala, Dinanath Kholkar, VK Raman, N Sarma, Milind Dhuru, Bawa Grover, Anupam Singhal, Eleni Nicholas are some of Leaders that I have looked up to who has directly / indirectly helped in shaping my thought leadership.

There are people in our HR Industry who have implicit influence on me since my young age include Dr Aquil Busrai, Santrupt Misra, R Gopalakrishnan, Bimal Rath, Anand Pillai, Dr. G P Rao, Varadarajan S, Prabir Jha and Marshall Goldsmith - a chance 1 on 1 meeting many years back due to flight delay helped build lot of perspective.  


Also thanks to Talees Rizvi, Sundeep Chandra, Ester Martinez and RL Bhatia and many others in industry & Academia for helping me add to my experiential learning's through multiple industry interface.  


Thank you everyone and I express my gratitude to all of you for directly / indirectly shaping me through my career journey so far!   


In Gratitude, Raj 

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