Solving the Employee Retention Puzzle in the Post-Pandemic Reality 0

Solving-the-Employee-Retention-Puzzle-in-the-PostPandemic-Reality
As more employees plan to look for new job opportunities post-pandemic, employee retention becomes more important than ever. In this article, we explore how Innoterra, India is managing attrition and hand-holding new and existing towards the long path of retention.

My journey in Innoterra is a great example of retention focus. I joined Innoterra during the pandemic turbulence. The company leadership and my team here left no stone unturned to make my onboarding experience qualitatively rich and warmly welcoming. Despite joining in a virtual working scenario, not having met any team members in person, everyone stood by me and invested their time and effort to get me up to speed on the business nuances, and the organization’s diverse practices and setup in the best way possible.

Trust, empathy, and continued learning matter the most for companies that retain their best talent. A successful business needs consistency in all aspects and the people aspect is probably the most important one. The key to long-term business success is to ensure the valued team members stay for the long haul, feel satisfaction, pride, and belonging. When the talent gives their best, companies do their best.

Attrition = Significant Resource Loss

When we look at the amount of time, resources, and money that gets invested into training an employee, losing him/her merely in months means a major loss for the organization. Most companies have set onboarding, training, and evaluation processes – they bear the risk of losing resources and money due to initial errors and adjustment time for every employee. And after all this effort and investment, starting yet again with a fresh recruit is a significant drag on company resources.

With organizations returning to growth mode – many are now expanding at a faster pace than before the COVID-19 pandemic – it is no wonder that the focus on talent acquisition is renewed. However, this must not be to the detriment of talent retention. With a significant percentage of skilled professionals already scouting for change, or planning to look for a new opportunity in the next 12 months, employee retention needs to be highly prioritized.

The challenge of the pandemic has worked well in one aspect – a renewed vigour for learning and expanding our skills. We saw many employees demonstrate a keen interest in using the pandemic stay-in-place orders as an opportunity for personal development and growth. As ability gaps around industries are widening, upskilling and reskilling efforts are crucial.

Retention is a Game of Balance

Retention may not always apply to tenured employees of the organization; it is also a crucial factor in taking care of the new employees and hand-holding them towards the long path of retention. My journey in Innoterra is a great example of retention focus. I joined Innoterra during the pandemic turbulence. The company leadership and my team here left no stone unturned to make my onboarding experience qualitatively rich and warmly welcoming. Despite joining in a virtual working scenario, not having met any team members in person, everyone stood by me and invested their time and effort to get me up to speed on the business nuances, and the organization’s diverse practices and setup in the best way possible.

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Their faith immediately instilled confidence in me – I felt a strong sense of inclusion, energy, enthusiasm, and empathy towards people. Today, I am convinced that I will always lead to taking this culture forward.

Post-Pandemic Workplace Realities are Important

Post-Pandemic Workplace Realities

The COVID-19 global pandemic turned the modern workplace on its head completely. It has been a true test for organizations to adapt to new realities and a lot of lessons are learnt in the process. For the first time in our lives, we worked together to manage our projects and teams in a completely virtual set-up.

One of the biggest lessons was ‘trust’. Trust between employers and their teams has always been critical to morale, efficiency, and teamwork. This year has put that belief to the test. Trust your employees and they will respect and reciprocate that trust – there is ample evidence that proved it during the pandemic. Most companies reported little or no productivity loss and, in some cases, employees even worked more efficiently to ensure they delivered on their goals.

The other important learning for us has been ‘empathy’. This crisis took a toll on our people – both physically and psychologically. With the global pandemic, the news cycle was full of stories about the all-time-high unemployment rate, wage cuts, uncertainty in employment, curtailed investments, and more. Add to that the grief of losing dear ones, gloomy updates about soaring infections and deaths, and predicted global economic downturn and you can see the immense pressure the pandemic put people under. The number of people showing depression symptoms grew significantly worldwide.

At Innoterra, we coped with this reality by practicing extreme empathy for all our team members. Now it has become second nature to most of us. Every meeting began by asking about the well-being of families and whether any help was needed. Every team member chipped in without complaint to help others, bridge the gaps at work, and provide mental and emotional support to our teams. Smoothly ensuring that employees and their families received due benefits of company-extended support for physical and emotional well-being helped us stabilize the conditions for the team. Expedited insurance coverage and vaccination support also helped – currently over 90% of our employees across countries have received at least one dose of vaccination.

For COVID-infected employees and their families, we helped procure oxygen concentrators at all locations. Our quick tie-up with a doctor-on-call website is still helping employees and their families seek free online consultations with medical and mental health experts. Also, in association with Barefoot College, an NGO, we have put together videos, resources, and information on how to fight COVID-19 and the importance of immunization in 5 regional languages. These resources are freely available for our employees, associates, vendors, supply chain partners as well as farmers.

In these difficult times, our teams have become more connected. We are all going through these challenging times together, and we strongly believe being more humane and empathetic has helped us navigate successfully. Since our lives at work and home are currently mixed, we now know more about each other, our homes, and our families

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Creating Opportunities with Continued Learning

The third important factor in ensuring retention is continuous and active ‘learning’. Ongoing changes at the workplace call for continuous learning and adaptation. It is true for people, companies, and even countries. Without it, we may lose touch with reality and won’t be able to cope with new developments, put them in the right perspective, and flourish despite challenges.

The challenge of the pandemic has worked well in one aspect – a renewed vigour for learning and expanding our skills. We saw many employees demonstrate a keen interest in using the pandemic stay-in-place orders as an opportunity for personal development and growth. As ability gaps around industries are widening, upskilling and reskilling efforts are crucial. And what better time to upskill than now?

At Innoterra, we have always been committed to providing a secure, open, and dynamic work environment to our people. Despite the slight downturn in business volumes, our team members were rewarded with commensurate performance incentives and bonus payouts for their sheer efforts and contribution in the previous year. By minimizing downsizing in roles and salaries while also investing in employee skill-building, Innoterra has delivered on the promise of standing by our people through thick and thin – our teams have shown their appreciation by standing by the company and showing agility in adapting and learning for new roles, working with expanded profiles, and delivering good business results despite pandemic challenges.

Our focus this year has been talent development and upskilling – the teams have responded fantastically to all our learning and development initiatives. For example, our workforce in Sales & Operations across various lines of business is undergoing a robust Behavioral and Functional Training Curriculum to reskill, develop and thereby enhance performance and business results.

Thus, we are readying our talent to step into larger roles, as the organization charts its growth path and creates a succession pipeline. We offer a career ladder and lattice, not based on tenure, but based on talent. We have done an extensive study on unique roles the organization can offer at the start of the year, along with an extensive job evaluation process so that we get the talent ready for the roles and not the other way around. We have also created job rotation/enrichment opportunities within the organization to ensure a level playing field of opportunities. All these measures have definitely helped in keeping attrition down to the minimum across our businesses.

To sum up, organizations like Innoterra, which slowly, but steadily create a niche within their own environment of trust, warmth, growth, low attrition, and high engagement at all levels, can withstand the turbulence and volatility in the outside world and remain on a stable path of business success.

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Priya Thakur Singh is an HR leader with over 20 years of multinational experience across companies like Essar Group, Pidilite Industries, Cigna TTK Health Insurance Company Limited, and JW Marriott. She currently heads HR at Swiss-Indian multinational Innoterra. 

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