Rethink, Renew & Relaunch HR in the New Abnormal!

Amit_Das Director HR & CHRO on Digital Transformation
Artificial Intelligence-based smart tools have improved Workplace automation & led to the rise of Smart Virtual Assistants & Chatbots that improve productivity, efficiency & engagement.

Rethink, Renew & Relaunch HR in the New Abnormal!

There is no going back, and there will be a new normal!” was the thought that echoed in the Board room as we got together immediately after we heard about Covid-19 cases, and how it was impacting everyone globally. Our immediate concern was the well-being of our employees and the continuity of our business.  

As the “Reset” button was pressed, meetings arranged, minds put together to address the demon looming large. Before the first Covid-19 case was announced, we were prepared. Our work, workplace, and workforce were aligned even before an official lockdown was mandated across the country (India).

“Being in the media industry, remote working was unheard of, yet we were successful in defining and implementing our business continuity plan.”

The Government of India classified Newspapers as part of essential services and one of the best ways to address fake news. Our superheroes were working hard to ensure that “real news” was delivered every single day at the doorstep of our Readers, to ensure they were educated and informed. 

As the largest media conglomerate, and as “the People Strategy” team, our core focus was to work closely with the business to help them strategize, stabilize, and mobilize. A three-pronged approach was adopted to ensure business continuity, boost employee morale, and ensure employee well-being: 

Pre & During the Lockdown

Tool-set: Ensure work continuity by providing requisite support, infrastructure and resources for employees to be productive, especially as they adapt to the “new ways of remote working“. IT infra enablement, virtual working, VPN, informative sessions on MS Teams were all part of the plan.  

Skill-set: Assure every individual, build trust, and communicate that we were all #InItTogether. We focused on creating a virtual learning environment so that one could learn, engage, be aware, and be appreciated. Hence, LEAP (Learn, engage, aware, praise) was launched with defined objectives – cross-functional collaboration, seamless communication, empower and engage employees beyond the workplace, and deliver a positive employee experience. We achieved this and more as virtual learning and engagement sessions were segmented, designed, and implemented. Subject Matter Experts conducted

LIVE sessions ranging from financial planning to ways to keep self and family safe, as part of the Masterclass series. Efforts were made to engage the employee and encouraged to share their “work from home” experiences. 

During the Lock-down and continuing in the phased Un-Locking times

Mind-set – We provided tech-enabled yet personalized options to employees. They could choose to pursue an “individual’s purpose” through our virtual volunteering program on one hand or be part of a Diversity and Inclusion initiative. Early June, we had released an Employee handbook across the organization to re-orient employees with the new normal and provide guidelines on the basic changes that we need to make in our day to day functioning to ensure safety for self and others. Health and fitness initiatives were initiated involving the employee and family on Yogic practices, sessions on functional therapy, addressing and enhancing emotional quotient by engaging through quizzes, games, and challenges on multiple online platforms.

We are also conscious that there is a virtual & screen fatigue that seems to have set in. Add to that the unrest of the mind because of uncertainty. We effortlessly changed gears and consciously decided to focus on the well-being of every individual by enabling interventions for the mind, body, and soul… Apart from fitness, Yoga, and anti-stress sessions, we launched a 24X7 “We-Care” program where colleagues can get confidential & 1X1 support from clinical psychologists, spiritual gurus, and counsellors at the click of a button. June alone saw 20+ employees reaching out for support in the face of stress, anxiety, and mental fitness.

As we move ahead in battling the COVID-19 situation and stabilizing our business, we strongly believe that phase 2 is going to bring immense focus on increased connect, collaboration and engagement in a “phygital” (physical & digital) environment.  This will have its own advantages and disadvantages however it will be our job as People Strategy Officers, tobring a balance between both and create significant value for the organization and every individual. We will utilize technology to enable effective and efficient conversations and one such example is how we have converted our employee handbook into mini digital capsules for our employees. Easy to consume as per “choice & convenience of the consumer”, these byte-sized modules help to further communicate and stress upon the importance of an individual’s safety. We have learnt that Technology will be a “Force-multiplier”.

Back to New Normal

As we rethink, re-haul, and renew HR practices in the new world of work, the HR Community will have to review People practices keeping the post-COVID-19 situation in perspective. While the impact & implications of the crisis are still unfolding, we will have a collective responsibility and opportunity to gain a much deeper understanding of this and create a playbook for HR professionals. This will equip the HR community to experiment with remote work culture & workplace practices, define the emergence of new work patterns in a Gig economy, and enable flatter, flexible, interconnected, on-demand & collaborative organizational structures. Additionally, we will need to relook at our Learning & Engagement initiatives since up-skilling is part of the new normal. As HR professionals we own Workplace policies & practices that will have to be re-written to support the new demands of Work and Workforce, these will need to be reoriented/ revamped to include a wider spectrum of Talent, with a focus on creating a  future-ready networked organization.

We will continue to extensively partner with the Business to bring significant expertise that will help them to understand the most crucial element in their successful delivery – the People. Also, I strongly believe that going ahead; the success of the HR function will be measured basis 3 aspects:

  • How efficiently has the work, workforce, and workplace collaboration been enabled?
  • How much value HR has created for the organization?
  • How effectively has the workforce adapted to the changes brought on by COVID-19?

I strongly believe that the ultimate measure of an individual is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and adversity. Going forward employees (current or prospective) will evaluate you on business performance but more importantly, how you as an organization “made them feel” during adverse times. As HR, we stood up for every employee and their family members and made a difference, because we believe “Tough times don’t last, tough people, do!”


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