In Conversation with Surajit Banerjee Sr Vice President and Head – HR, Spicejet Limited
Surajit is a senior HR veteran with over 3 decades of experience in Human Resources. Currently, Surajit heads HR functions at Spicejet Limited as Senior Vice President and previously he has worked with companies such as M3M India, DLF Universal, Max Healthcare, Hindustan Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, and Airtel. Surajit holds a masters degree in Human Resources from XLRI Jamshedpur
Q- The Aviation Industry has been worse impacted by COVID-19. As an HR leader, how well, you are prepared to deal with current talent challenges?
We have consciously embedded a well thought out programme of utilizing the internal talent and grooming them into new roles. The general culture and mindset have therefore grown in this line. We have had a well laid out process of Internal Job Postings and lateral movements. This has had a significant impact on the agility and mental makeup of all employees. Today, therefore when organizations such as ours are faced with a disproportionate supply of Talent in certain job categories, the openness in employees to embrace change has helped them make the transition from category to category quite freely.
Additionally, engaging employees in frequent two-way communications have had a high level of alignment with them, where most employees understand the needs of the Organizational and the impact of critical industry factors on their company. Such engagements begin with transparent and detailed Induction sessions when they come onboard and with regular conversations with the employees at regular intervals. Today’s, difficult employee discussions, therefore become easier in such Companies, in the current COVID impacted scenario.
Q- How challenging has it been to restructure your workforce policies and salary cuts to address the business needs in the current pandemic crisis?
People are aware that a large proportion of all workforces, across every sector, is likely to get adversely impacted. Therefore, today, it becomes even more important for organisations to be upfront in sharing the bad news. At such times, the only thing that employees wish to see is complete fairness, uniformity, and trust in whatever action is taken. The principle and yardstick to be applied have therefore got to be well thought out.
And for the Leadership, the need of the hour is to focus objectively on the restructuring needs of the organization, while telescoping out of their respective domains and being able to see the ‘big picture’, where only ‘key talent’ relevant to the business are retained. There is no ‘my team’ that needs to be sheltered.
Q- What steps have you undertaken to manage employees’ anxiety, fear, and, wellness amidst current situations?
If we look across corporates, employees may take some solace from the fact that despite the adverse impact of the current situation caused by the pandemic, most organizations are trying to be sensitive to the aspect of anxiety and fear affecting the employees. Internally, carefully identified employees are being trained and setup to be available for listening and helping employees reach out and get support, in these troubled times. All such actions have been around supporting employees and providing emotional wellness.
The biggest fear the employees have today is around the loss of jobs. Therefore organizations have explored possibilities of employees opting for going on Furlough with their rejoining being deferred to a future date. Organisations have also explored options with revised terms of employment based on the revised level/extent of utilization in opportunities likely to come up in the future.
Q- According to IATA, COVID-19 crisis likely to hit 29 lakh jobs in Indian aviation, how do you see the future of jobs and skillsets in this industry?
Without getting into numbers predicting the actual loss of jobs, what is abundantly clear is that there will be a significant adverse impact on the workforce with a lower level of business, for a fairly long time. But most indications seem to also suggest that this will pick up, thereafter. At that time, people with past training and work experience will obviously be the first choice for a rehire, when it comes to aviation business expansion. One has seen this happening in the past, albeit on a much smaller scale.
A lot of human interfaces may get reduced in the ‘new normal’ likely to be coming up. The competency required would then move to individual comfort in using and leveraging technology. There will also be opportunities to multi-task, even between functions/ departments. That is where a clear shift in mindset will be required.
Q- What are the major trends emerging in the HR space post-COVID-19?
- The need for physical interaction is likely to get reduced. A lot of interaction will start to move towards the use of technology platforms for recording, referring, amending, and analyzing employee information. This will, in turn, lead to faster response time and greater employee satisfaction.
- Influencing will transcend relationship management and become objective and business-focused.
- Discussions will begin to get crisp with greater clarity in presentation, in order to get suitable closure in ‘long distant’ discussions. A lot of ambiguity arriving out of greater dependence on verbal discussions and agreements will recede.
Q- Any concluding remarks?
Only people with grit and the gumption to succeed despite fundamental changes will finally settle into this ‘new normal’. Others will take time to find their way.
Bigger corporates will possibly give way to the agile young organisations who will demonstrate flexibility to scale and descale within short notice.
Customer expectations will change, as will change the demand and priority in their minds. Much greater demand will be placed on understanding customer needs with greater accuracy. For a long, while understanding the ‘value proposition’, will be the key.
Thank you, Surajit!