In this special interview with Ms. Niharika Mohan, Head Of Human Resources & CSR at Luminous Power Technologies (P) Ltd, we discuss the need to re-think and re-imagine what the future will look like for both - Business and the Workforce. She shares her insights on how she foresees a hybrid workforce in the future – with employees splitting their time between home and office. We also discuss with Niharika, the evolution of work culture in the near future.
Q. Having worked as an HR leader in the industry for many years, how has this journey been so far? What were your initial main challenges when you started out? How did that help you evolve into a leader?
A. I have been a part of the HR fraternity for over two decades and privileged to have handled diverse roles in multiple industries. My experience ranges across a wide spectrum of HR portfolios ranging from the Business transformation, Change management, Diversity & Inclusion, M&A integration, Succession Planning, Compensation & Benefits and Talent management etc.
I have been a strong advocate of building an ecosystem to bring women into leadership roles and this topic is extremely close to my heart. Taking risks, constantly challenging myself and learning from my mentors has helped me enrich my experience, prepared me well from a leadership standpoint, and has made me a better professional.
Q. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. In your opinion, how adopting a new distributed workforce ecosystem and reimagining work and workplaces of tomorrow can help organisations gaining a competitive advantage in the post- COVID-19 world?
A. The pandemic has led us to re-think and re-imagine what the future will look like for both – Business and the Workforce. The way we think and act has undergone a sea change. The past few months have seen the world react to crisis-induced circumstances and the organisations are also adjusting to this shift. It is the need of the hour that individuals, as well as organisations, innovate more to adapt to the realities of the new world in order to remain relevant. A distributed workforce is an inherent trend that is now a part of our new way of working and is beneficial for both individuals and organisations. This will help
individuals as it eliminates the constraints of location and provides the flexibility of working hours.
For the organisations, it brings a good opportunity as it widens the talent pool and helps improve retention of millennials and women employees. This will also have a beneficial impact on cost structures for the organisations and propel them to invest more in technology enablement to provide connectivity to the distributed workforce. Flexibility is the key here and by being able to provide a good balance between work life and personal life, organizations would be able to improve their retention.
Q. With mass virtual work being in place for several months now, digital working has been redefined like never before. With the accelerated pace of tech adoption, how will work technologies be pivotal to reimagined work structures? Can you also tell us what the office of the future will look like?
A. In my mind, the future of the workplace is going to be very different for both – permanent workforce and the gig workers. I foresee a hybrid workforce in the future – with employees splitting their time between home and office. A few pointers on this:
Hybrid Workspaces – While the New collaboration spaces and home offices are here to stay in the post-pandemic scenario, the need for a physical office workspace will still remain for purposes of idea generation and to provide a sense of belongingness to employees. The concept of a centralized workspace will never go out of place as it caters to the inherent social need of individuals to work together.
Work Culture Evolution – With the new and re-imagined work structures coming in, the work culture will undergo a shift change as well. The social aspect of a workspace will get translated into more and frequent digital interactions within teams. The technology will play a pivotal role in enabling this and to foster personal productivity and collaboration within and across organizations.
A distributed workforce is an inherent trend that is now a part of our new way of working and is beneficial for both individuals and organisations. This will help individuals as it eliminates the constraints of location and provides the flexibility of working hours. For the organisations, it brings a good opportunity as it widens the talent pool and helps improve retention of millennials and women employees.
Along with the need to invest in communication and technology to allow this, the policies will have to be in line with the new model and the leaders will need to be equipped with skills to manage this shift.
Q. As digital technologies make it easier to work in a distributed manner, flat structures will become increasingly common. In your opinion, why is it time to redesign traditional company structures? Also, how will leadership work in these flat structures and self-managed teams?
A. The current times have led the leaders to rethink their organisational structure and business models. Flat structures will become increasingly common to enhance the flow of communication and facilitate faster decision making in a virtual world. This will put the onus on leaders to be agile, resilient and digitally savvy to ensure that the lean organisation structures can be productive and efficient. Leadership is undergoing a sea change and will demand a more connected and personalized style exhibiting care, empathy and compassion as key ingredients. Therefore, leaders who can think ahead, pivot quickly, make changes, are quick decision-makers will succeed in the times to come.
Q. With radically transformed workplaces, work practices, patterns, and philosophies; how has this crisis put the HR function in the radar of importance, visibility, and influence? Why has crisis response become the top priority for HR and how can it help HR leaders assume the role of new-age leaders?
A. The HR function has always remained at the helm of affairs in building the organisations but the pandemic situation has put the HR fraternity on the spotlight. The HR function is playing a crucial role in guiding organisations and employees to navigate through this crisis situation. This team is believed to be the ‘heart’ of the organisation and in these past few months, they have worked extensively on employee care, more than ever. Health, wellness, safety and employee welfare have been the chief areas of work during these challenging times.
While the pandemic has affected all individuals in varying degrees and ways, the struggle of coping up in these times has been tough on the women of our workforce. In the early days of work from home, the added flexibility did seem like a benefit for women. The additional domestic responsibilities, caregiver role, constant distractions at home and an impossible attempt at demarcating ‘personal’ and ‘work’ time has led to women working round the clock, doing both home and work shifts at the same time.
The pandemic situation has led the HR leaders to rethink their priorities and what is required from their function. Ensuring that they help employees perform at their best remains to be the focus area but with the world-changing fast, the need to upskill people and leaders in line with the requirements of the future has become pivotal. Relooking at the organisation structures – making them agile and nimble and ensuring technological enablement are other emerging priorities.
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
Q. The pandemic highlights the need for businesses to recognise diverse talent and be wholly inclusive. During these uncertain and difficult times, what steps organizations, leaders, and managers can take to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts don’t fall by the wayside?
A. India has a rich heritage with different states, religions, cultures, and languages all coming together to form our workforce. While the pandemic has affected all individuals in varying degrees and ways, the struggle of coping up in these times has been tough on the women of our workforce. In the early days of work from home, the added flexibility did seem like a benefit for women. The additional domestic responsibilities, caregiver role, constant distractions at home and an impossible attempt at demarcating ‘personal’ and ‘work’ time has led to women working round the clock, doing both home and work shifts at the same time. While this is leading to a physical and mental burn out for women, it has also led to stress and doubts about their own competency and efficiency.
The unique situation presented to the world by this pandemic requires an inimitable response from our leaders to maintain and garner Diversity. The leaders will need to help women to deal with the above challenges by leading with empathy and compassion and by providing an environment which is Inclusive and where their voices are heard.
Q. More than ever, promoting employee health and well-being has become a key focus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. How important is it at Luminous to help people stay focused and mentally healthy in the face of such significant change? What initiatives and programs are in place to support the health and well-being of your employees during these testing times?
A. At Luminous, the health and safety and well-being of employees have always been of paramount importance to us. However, with this pandemic, well-being took a new meaning for us and became an obsession. Employee care remains to be our top priority. Keeping in line with this, we have a holistic well-being framework that focuses on physical, social, mental, and emotional aspects. A host of activities like yoga, webinars on mindfulness, nutrition, mental awareness and the on-call counselling service helped employees and their families deal with stress and anxiety.
Our Leadership team displayed resilience and paved the way by using the digital platform to share their stories of perseverance in the rough times with all employees. Employee care remained to be on top of their list and was exhibited in all actions and decisions of our leaders and this further cemented the trust within the organisation. The spirit of this was indeed infectious and caught on to our employees, partners and extended families to replicate the passion and commitment in their actions.
Flat structures will become increasingly common to enhance the flow of communication and facilitate faster decision making in a virtual world. This will put the onus on leaders to be agile, resilient and digitally savvy to ensure that the lean organisation structures can be productive and efficient.
We also kept the engagement and communication going on the social media platforms for our partners, distributors and employees. Our care ensured well-being for not just our employees and families but also for the society at large through our
CSR programs. We reached out to the communities to aid them with the support required by distributing masks, medical equipment, dry ration and other basic necessities which were of prime importance during the pandemic.
This was the priority and we focused wholeheartedly on the well-being of everyone associated with the Luminous family.