Undying Optimism in the era of COVID-19 Pandemic

tata coffee CHRO on COVID-19
The professional intellects do not belong to any geographical boundaries, flexible in terms of place of work, and adapt quickly to a different environment of work. It is a matter of their choice, where they prefer to work rather than a compulsion.

The Tough Questions

Few days into COVID lockdown, with continuous TV news related to the unfortunate situation of inter-state migratory citizens, my son had many questions: how will they stay for so many days inside a small house? will their children attend online classes? why our society’s security uncle is coming to work? whether our house help and her family left Bangalore ? do they get food to eat ? are they safe? and many more !!

“These questions are not new anymore and most of us have gone through these questions from the young ones, the answers are few and changing every single day.”

What has gone wrong? Since a decade or more the entire management professionals including me were lauding and professing for a VUCA world and our preparedness to respond to these environments. Where did we fail in the current crisis? Why none of the global thought leaders (Political, Social, Management, Spiritual) could predict or provide a solution to the current situation? What is going to happen from here on and are we prepared for the immediate tomorrow?

Is This New?

If we look back, many of us have experienced tough time in the past in a limited way, personally I have experienced 2 tough situations, first in 1993 the earthquake in Latur, Maharastra during my student time as a volunteer, and the other in 1999 cyclone in my home state Odisha, where our native village was submerged under 10 ft water, and the entire district was disconnected for a couple of weeks. Both times I witnessed people showing remarkable resilience in getting back to their ‘normalcy’, while many still have the memories of trying times fresh in their minds.

The Way Forward

Each one will agree, the human race will find solutions from the current pandemic (as it did during the Spanish-Flu 100 years back), and all of us in the corporate world will go back to ‘normalcy’ with some changes.

The innovative changes adapted in the world thus far will have a cascading reaction and generate an organization culture where long term success will depend on complimenting capabilities of two types of professionals

  • A) Professional Intellects
  • B) Execution Partners

A) The professional Intellect

I am borrowing the concept from an HBR article “Making the Most of the Best”, which I received at a training session long back, It emphasizes on, how corporations should leverage Professional Intellect to create value, I feel it holds true for now and the future.

Professional intellects have a large influence on converting the thought process to outcomes both in society as well as the corporate world. Professional Intellects adapts to 4 different dimensions

  1. Cognitive Knowledge (know-what)
  2. Advanced Skills, (know-how)
  3. Systems understanding(know-why)
  4. Self-motivated creativity (care-why)

The beauty is intellect is a function of the brain and most of the time the organization culture allows people to interplay one and the other.

Realization-At the organizational level, with the adoption of remote working, there is a realization in the management world, that over a period of time, the work content is inflated to suit a full-day work for many management positions. Corporates will further realign the work content to logical grouping and focus on creating a leaner and flatter organization.

At the individual level, with the current fear of the pandemic and realigned value of life professional intellects across age groups will adopt to the minimalistic world, by way of tampered down vertical career aspirations.

This will result in fierce demand and will lead to a new model of engagement. We may start experiencing many more positions being occupied on a part-time/short term basis at senior and mid-management levels with clear deliverables.

The professional intellects do not belong to any geographical boundaries, flexible in terms of place of work, and adapt quickly to a different environment of work. It is a matter of their choice, where they prefer to work rather than a compulsion.

With the imbalance of demand and supply of professional intellects, we will experience a change in our professional education system, where corporates start engaging students from the first semester of education with a limited hour of the classroom, leading to a strong education – corporate realignment.

B) Execution Partners

The Execution Partners form a large part of any successful organization and there is no exception going forward.

The mastery level among execution partners will fall into 3 categories:

  1. Learners (trying to do/re-do),
  2. Practitioner(completing closer to perfection)
  3. Experts (who can teach others along with doing perfectly)

The transition from Execution Partners to the professional intellect category will happen through extra-ordinary performance and promise of their potential. Based on need and opportunity of work “Execution Partners” will keep changing their domain.

The choice of work activities for these categories are an outcome of their basic necessities and/or availability of opportunity. The inter-state (home states and working states) migrants fall in this category and constitute a large % of the supply of this workforce.

The migrants are having a tough time with non-employment, confinement to a small place of stay, returning to the home state. This might lead them to search opportunity closer home, so the country will have a dual challenge, creating ample infrastructure/opportunities in home states, and managing the shortfall in the working states.

Corporates will now need to adopt both the approaches, (1) identify work which can move to the home states with available skills and (2) developing a skilling program for the available workforce to run and utilize the existing infrastructure.

An Undying optimism

Nothing is new anymore, one such day, while I was busy in my work, I overheard the teacher asking the online class of my son..” what they miss in online class”… and there was a huge noise and almost the entire class started shouting “Madam we miss the school, classroom and play with friends”.

Across the corporate world, we are developing a theory how do we maximize the use of technology and create a seamless online environment of work (sorry life), I am optimistic like my son and all other kids …waiting to go out of our houses without fear of the unknown.


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