SV Nathan speaks with All Things Talent about how, in 2022, organisations faced mental health and work-life boundary issues, resulting in high attrition rates
What challenges did organisations and individuals face when they returned to work in 2022 after COVID-19?
Interestingly, during and after COVID, companies began to ask themselves if there was a better way of working- than the old-school way of going to work every day. One of the most significant answers to this question was hybridisation.
During the lockdown, productivity went up by 10%. However, people paid for this with their mental health. Deloitte’s Women at Work survey, 2022, showed that many hybrid, fully remote workers could not switch off from work or manage boundaries. This was also the case with men. The ensuing stress and burnout led to high attrition rates in 2021-22.
However, in 2022, there was a distinct shift in people’s perceptions of working from home. They began to understand that work was not a “place” but something that had to be done- from home or the office.
In fact, after having had the opportunity to try it out, many millennials and Gen Z’s began to prefer a hybrid model of work and either resigned from or refused jobs that did not have a hybrid option.
Therefore, hybridisation has become crucial. We can neither completely shun hybridisation nor adopt a “one size fits all” approach. We need to find a combination that suits our specific needs, and therefore, finding a suitable hybrid model will be a priority in 2023. For example, Tata Steel found a way for 30% of its people to work hybrid or remotely.
Were there other general issues in the tech sector and Deloitte in 2022?
2022 taught us that personal struggles could never be underrated. Therefore, mental health has become a very crucial area of focus.
However, we rarely discuss it. In fact, our Deloitte 2022 survey showed that poor mental health among employees costs Indian employers almost $14 billion per year, and 33% of white-collar employees in India continue working despite mental health issues.
In light of this, we introduced several changes internally.
- We focussed on telling our people that it was okay not to be okay and to speak about it.
- We created awareness and understanding by bringing in authorities like psychologists and doctors. We also trained our managers to recognise if somebody was suffering from mental health issues.
- We also introduced six wellness days over and above all the other usual leaves. For example, a woman could take a few days off during her menstrual cycle.
However, although all these policies help, the most crucial is empathy.
Manufacturing is moving from China to India, but we lack skills. We may have the best engineers, but they may not necessarily be the best welders or pneumatic operators.
2022 started with a hiring boom, but now there is talk of slow down and compensation restructuring. Is the tech sector following the same trend?
I think the tech sector’s compensation will increase by about 10-11% for niche skills, which are always crucial. There will also be a greater focus on proper compensation for people in new tech areas.
Currently, India is shining bright. We are in no hurry to slow down the hiring rate. There may have been excessive hiring earlier, but now we are more careful about overhiring.
With so much experimentation, have some sectors learnt how to better the outcome of hybridisation?
Yes, we have learned much about how the hybrid model works today and in the future. Here are a few of my learnings:
- Every organisation has its own culture. But culture is a contact sport. It can only be created when people come together. Therefore, bringing our teams together at least twice a week is essential. Hybridisation creates a very different kind of culture for any organisation.
- Mentoring is an integral part of our Indian organisations. Learning and development occur through colleague interaction, requiring people to come to work. For example, it is easier to understand people and gauge their reactions when they are sitting in front of you.
- Individuals will grow only when they feel they are part of a system and it truly cares for them. For example, face-to-face check-ins with managers and team members are more personal and friendly. Also, going into a physical building to work helps with a sense of belonging and identity.
From an HR perspective, which are the winning policies for the Indian economy?
Here are some policies that are gaining importance
- Skilling, reskilling, and upskilling policies
Skills are going to be necessary. There will be a shift in trend—the end of jobs and the beginning of skills, and we have to be ready for it.
Moreover, in a remote or hybrid working situation, people will want to work for organisations that will help them improve. Therefore, skilling, upskilling, and reskilling are crucial and will be an ongoing priority.
- Mental well-being/boundary policies
Having a well-balanced life is crucial to mental well-being. During COVID, we lost our ability to maintain boundaries, so policies that help maintain boundaries are essential.
- Technology policies
Technology is not the enemy. Policies are required to help your people interact with technology in an age of rapidly changing technology.
- Work-from-home policies
The future of the workplace is here to stay. However, how can we be more sensitive about people working from home in hybrid working models?
For example, working from home in a small house is difficult for two family members. Can we make it more comfortable? Do they have ergonomic chairs, monitors, headsets, etc.?
- Inclusion and representation policies
We must give up yesterday’s hiring patterns, or we will miss out on the tsunami of talent coming our way. Even within the organisation, do we have policies in place for representation- in panels, in meetings- there has to be female/male/diversity representation?
All of the above issues are gaining importance, and we must find a way to bridge the gaps between vision and intent through a policy framework.
You said it would be the end of jobs and the beginning of skills. Is that statement directly derivative of the pandemic years and how things have changed?
The writing was already on the wall! There was a time when people needed to be graduates to be hired, but today we are rapidly moving away from that. Companies are now looking at skills that are valuable to them.
For example, companies ask whether they need an engineer or a diploma holder with the required specialised skills. This is why I said the end of jobs is the beginning of skills.
There will also be a greater focus on proper compensation for people in new tech areas. Currently, India is shining bright. We are in no hurry to slow down the hiring rate. There may have been excessive hiring earlier, but now we are more careful about overhiring.
There’s a lot of talk about emphasising skills over degrees. What’s Deloitte’s stand on it?
At Deloitte, we often hire according to required skills rather than degrees, but this is not restricted to Deloitte; it is a growing trend.
For example, manufacturing is moving from China to India, but we lack skills. We may have the best engineers, but they may not necessarily be the best welders or pneumatic operators.
Therefore, to counter this gap, we need more institutes like the World Skill Centre that impart advanced skill training in different trades and service sectors.
How can job seekers get a job they like?
Firstly, job seekers need to find an organisation that allows them to marry their passion with their potential. They should look for a company that provides a happy blend of both. Working only for money and suffering in silence will result in infant attrition.
Secondly, job seekers should research the role carefully. What does the role entail? What does it provide? Will it help build a repertoire of skills and knowledge?
Thirdly, researching the organisation or checking with people who are/ have been in it is crucial. Will the organisation facilitate growth? Money or compensation must be like a shadow- in the background.
What three key tech sector trends predominate this year?
To sum it up, the three key trends for 2023 are going to be:
- Learning how to navigate the end of jobs.
- Managing hybridisation
- Learning to navigate rapidly and dramatically changing technology
About the Author: Nathan is the Chief Talent Officer of Deloitte India and a member of the India leadership team with over 30 years of experience in HR management across various industries. He is a leader and mentor who advocates ethical leadership and developing future leaders through coaching.