From Hardships to Hardiness: What 2020 has Taught Us (So Far) 0

Subir Sinha
“An Agile Human Resource Function has to keep its eyes and ears on employees, understand their needs and requirements and facilitate and provide all support in minimal time to ensure enhanced employee engagement, experience and productivity”, is what Mr Subir Sinha famously said in his most engaging write-up for ATT in 2020. And as the year comes to a close, let’s see what more insights he has to share with our readers.

As we near the end of 2020, a year full of new learnings at the workplace due to COVID 19, I would like to dwell upon and re-visit my articles published in All Things Talent this year and discuss what all happened that was written and thought of.

Work from Home/Remote Working has become the new norm. All businesses and companies around the world – both small and large – were forced to work from home and most of them are continuing to do so. What earlier was the prerogative of the IT sector is now all-pervasive and even manufacturing giants like Tata Steel have adopted and allowed remote working for select departments.

work from home

COVID-19 pushed many companies to swiftly change their policies to deal with the crisis, hence businesses had no other option than adopting a new kind of online work culture where communicating virtually through various social media and video/call conference applications platforms became the new normal. What is most noteworthy from all this, however, is how the pandemic has become the greatest accelerator for digital transformation around us and how rapidly it is transforming business. It has sped up digital transformation by 5.3 years – years-long digital transformation roadmaps have been compressed into days and weeks in order to adapt to the new normal. Employees have also adjusted themselves to the new normal – acclimating to new work environments and having more confidence in employers – they are adapting quickly to a new way of working.

One big remarkable thing which was observed was the “trust” factor between employees and their managers improving. Managers were not observing and directly supervising their teams in WFH scenarios, but tasks were being accomplished which indicated that trust and confidence between the manager and teams had improved.

We saw all small and big companies adopting technologies and leveraging them for WFH and productivity. Work efficiencies saw a surge and employees lived up to the expectations of the organizations. Though there were initial teething troubles, they were sorted out over time.

WFH challenges

Managers were not observing and directly supervising their teams in WFH scenarios, but tasks were being accomplished which indicated that trust and confidence between the manager and teams had improved. Click To Tweet

This sudden transition from having employees physically work in the office to remote work has not been easy, but COVID-19 has become a reminder for business leaders that one of their main priorities should always be to build trust. Managers are learning to become better leaders in dealing with employees who are working remotely. Only those organizations that are able to develop strategies to build trust between managers and employees will see stronger work relationships as well as performance. TRUST, CONFIDENCE & SELF-DIRECTION were clearly seen during this pandemic.

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WFH also had challenges of monotony, loneliness, fatigue from working extra beyond work hours, temporary sickness of employees, etc. All these were also being observed. Thanks to our CEO and Country Head, there were no job cuts, increments were on time and all this won the confidence of employees during the ongoing pandemic.

Managing employees remotely and engaging them was another big challenge, however, managers did try innovative ways to keep the teams engaged and keep their morale and motivation high. I will share my experience at NetCom where I head the HR function.

Our CEO Mr. Russell Sarder and Country Head Mr. Sanjeev Shrivastava took the decision of WFH in early March 2020 itself. All employees were provided with laptops and were brought under Microsoft Teams. After that, there was no looking back. Work from Home Policy was documented keeping the best practices in mind and released. Employees had to abide by the policy. Daily morning and evening meetings were mandated, and all employees happily attended and shared their work progress, etc. Daily and weekly reports also came into existence. Managers got an opportunity to monitor all employees collectively and on one to one basis.

We work US shifts and hence employees were given autonomy to space out the work and complete tasks as per agreed deadlines. Open and Transparent Communication between managers and teams was promoted, and efforts were taken by the manager to keep all employees on the same page especially for interdependent tasks that were to be completed within stipulated timelines. Downward and upward communication was seen happening openly and transparently. Feedback was also being shared with all in team meetings, essentially the work pace was being managed for on-time deliveries. We saw lots of synergies among departments as all of them could come in the same frame and the teething issues of task completion were closed then and there.

Cross-functional assignments were being done and managed efficiently. We also saw a surge in online training of our products and lots of online training sessions for employees were being arranged and conducted. Sharing feedback and happy hours was an opportunity to informally meet with employees and was appreciated by both managers and employees. Many hidden talents of employees professionally and on a personal level emerged and acted as a booster to the morale and motivation of employees. Overall, WFH was a success at NetCom.

The initial “Trust Building” took some time but when managers saw the work accomplishments, it was a done thing. Click To Tweet

Leveraging on technology as Microsoft Teams is another indicator that shows the agility at NetCom. All employees are on Teams platforms operating in different channels and efficiently doing their work to the interest of the organization. We saw a couple of cross-functional teams contributing to WFH management, a clear example is the Innovation Team and Human Resource collaborating to prepare an in-house online ESS system in a short time frame making HR‘s job easy.

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However, I would also share that the initial “Trust Building” took some time but when managers saw the work accomplishments, it was a done thing.

WFH also had challenges of monotony, loneliness, fatigue from working extra beyond work hours, temporary sickness of employees, etc. All these were also being observed. Thanks to our CEO Mr. Russell Sarder and Country Head Mr. Sanjeev Shrivastava, there were no job cuts, increments were on time and all this won the confidence of employees during the ongoing pandemic.

We also are getting requests from some employees to start the office, but the management is yet to decide on this. As of now, WFH is officially allowed till December 2020. Its advantages have been accrued to the company.

I had written on ‘Agile Human Resource is The Need of the Hour’. NetCom has demonstrated its Agility during the pandemic. The fact that we quickly adopted WFH is the best indicator. Leveraging on technology as Microsoft Teams is another indicator that shows the agility at NetCom. All employees are on Teams platforms operating in different channels and efficiently doing their work to the interest of the organization. We saw a couple of cross-functional teams contributing to WFH management, a clear example is the Innovation Team and Human Resource collaborating to prepare an in-house online ESS system in a short time frame making HR‘s job easy. Innovation Team is using contemporary software for project management and all this during the pandemic demonstrating organizational agility.

2020 will go down in our memories as a year that taught us to fight adversity. We saw COVID cases in offices, all around us, death of near and dear ones but our resilience was at its best. We overcame all challenges to continue to work and contribute to the organization and lead our lives. The new normal of work from home and wearing masks, social distancing which we had never thought of earlier became a reality, but we fought it out and found ways and means of moving ahead no matter what. We demonstrated Agility, grit, and determination to move on.

Empathy, trust, and mutual understanding were other intangible takeaways. In the midst of all this, leaders must acknowledge the profound challenges that the pandemic has created and recognize the important opportunities to learn and grow from this once-in-a-century crisis.

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