Lockdown is no excuse for employee knockdown

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Some organizations resolved not to cut salaries or layoff their employees despite the business coming to a grinding halt due to the lockdown. This sets the ground straight for robust people practices in these enterprises.

At the hireXP round-table discussion, CHROs—Arpan Anand of CP Plus, Shiv Rawat of DTDC Express, and Amit Sharma of Volvo Group— shared with us captivating stories of brotherhood and solidarity, as they changed the narrative for people practices in their respective organizations.

Employee sentiments have been on a roller coaster ride since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those who had never experienced work from home (WFH), it was a feeling of exuberance, a chance to stay back home on a Monday, then Tuesday and then the rest of the week! But the novelty and initial feeling of excitement vanished even before they reached the end of week 1, only to be replaced by anxiousness and insecurity. Then came the time when the entire country was on lockdown, but some employees were required to work as they were helping provide essential services. It was challenging to convince these employees to report to their places of work—for some, it meant going to the red zones or entering containment zones.

Naturally, employees were deeply concerned about business not proceeding as usual. At such a time, when CP Plus decided to venture into medical equipment, it brought a lot of cheer amongst its employees.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This was the spirit exhibited by these leaders who quickly realized that employee engagement has to be democratic—encompassing the entire workforce and not just one section of employees.

Nandini Bhatnagar, head-marketing and communication, Sun Life ASC, shared that recently everyone at her organization was given a Friday off to alleviate tiredness that has become synonymous with work from home. 

Talk the walk

Rawat says, “We practiced ‘HR Aapke Dwaar’ or HR at your doorstep. An HR team of 50-60 employees took upon themselves the tall task of reaching out to 10,000 employees and handholding them at the onset of this unprecedented breakdown in their lives.”

While austere measures were taken at the workplace, these leaders believed that until employees were given their full salary and assured of job security, any talk would lead to emptiness and disengaged employees.

“2019 was a great year for the Volvo Group, which led us on to a bullish projection for 2020. However, fate had the opposite in the store. Due to reduced demand, the Volvo plants shut shop in Europe. In Sweden, the partial layoff was announced and there was impact on employees’ compensation. However, here in India, we looked at the business situation and decided to hold on to the current compensation and defer the salary increment by one quarter. In line with the Government advisory, we decided against implementing pay cuts or layoffs of our employees. In my opinion, the lockdown has changed employees’ wants. How organizations will treat its employees in such challenging times shall become the folklore for the future,” opines Sharma.

These HR leaders focused on acts of assurance, so that their workforces became confident that their organizations would take no drastic measures that could have a negative impact on their personal and work lives. While complete elimination of business uncertainty is not possible,it is definitely possible to handle ambiguity with respect to job security and remuneration, with empathy and care.

Communication plays the key role

The panelists agreed that when it comes to sharing information with employees, there is no such thing as over-communication. The COVID-19 situation has once again brought into focus the importance of a transparent culture at the workplace.

Leveraging platforms, such as HRMS, digital notice boards, and Yammer networks, HR is constantly trying to keep in touch with its employees. In addition, these channels are also serving as fillers during WFH, when employees feel deprived of coffee conversations—powerful stressbusters of the workplace.

Internal WhatsApp chatting is also very popular amongst employees, especially the blue-collared workforce, who can be consistently engaged through this platform. Going a step further, HR has also initiated a helpline whereby the workforce can be in touch with them 24/7 during the pandemic. 

Leaders are also using social media platforms to engage with their employees. Rawat points out that his LinkedIn account predominantly consists of employees from his organization. This offers another opportunity to engage with them productively as well as indulge in light humor.

“Crises do not build character, they reveal it. I often hear leaders speak about their employees being their priority, which makes me wonder, exactly where on this list of priorities do these employees appear? I find it extremely appalling that some leaders are so weak that they resort to pink slipping at the very beginning of a difficult situation. The question that I’d like to ask them is, ‘If you lose your job, would you put your kids up for adoption?’”

The employee mindset is changing. Today, they are extremely sensitive about the way they are treated by their organizations. In these trying times, only those employers who are able to act humanely with their workforce will be able to retain talent. All that the employees want to hear from their bosses is that whatever be the circumstance, there is enough to pay them for the next two years.

Wondering how to engage employees during COVID-19? Read about “Conversational Interfaces: Employee Engagement Strategy in 2020” Click Here

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