As the leader of Catenon’s Asia business, Gaurav Chattur is responsible for building and growing the business, across both the Indian and South East Asian markets. A postgraduate in Business Administration and Management from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, Gaurav has an experience of over fifteen years with diverse organisations in the domain of technology. He comes with Management Consulting experience at Cognizant Business Consulting, where he consulted clients across Insurance, Technology, Healthcare and Life Sciences verticals in the US. During his stint at Cognizant he was closely involved with McKinsey in implementing an Operational Excellence initiative across the organization. He has also worked with Infosys as a Project Lead and a Process Consultant.
Restarting the workplace as we knew it before the pandemic is going to be a mammoth challenge that awaits CHROs around the world. Although everybody in the professional arena knows that the workplace and workforce dynamic has changed owing to remote work, one cannot ignore the fact that ultimately most of the workforce will need to return to work in some form.
The CHRO’s role in the organization’s back-to-work strategy is to ensure safety and create conducive policies that help employees adapt to the new work environment. Getting people back to the office will involve accommodating flexible work schedules, sustaining and enhancing productivity, communicating effectively with all employees and managing any friction arising from new rules/exceptions among innumerable other things.
It is ideal for Human Resource leaders to create a ‘Back to Work’ checklist, with a step by step list of objectives and goals. This should comprise the communication and action items around getting the workforce back to office. Owing to the nature of ‘hybrid working’, there will be many instances where a mix will need to be managed by making exceptions and communicating the agenda accordingly.
- Reigniting the Cultural Thread
The biggest missing piece for organisation due to the remote working scenario has been a shared cultural thread running across the workforce. Especially for the employees who may have joined post the onset of the pandemic, the cultural reference would be completely missing. Weaving the cultural thread again through the workforce and correcting misalignment will be a key factor in employee engagement and retention.
The real test for CHROs will be to rekindle this thread through leaders at different hierarchical levels. Hand holding the managers and team leads by anticipating situations beforehand will definitely help in easing people into the new workplace, as opposed to forcing them to return. Understanding the pulse in a disconnected and to a large extent disengaged workforce will be a pivotal starting point.
- Policy, Exceptions and Diversity
The pandemic has thrown newer challenges and uncertainties for the employees. Managing kids at home in absence of offline schools for example has meant it has become impossible for parents to function without flexibility. Organisations will have to bear this in mind when returning to working from office.
Policies will have to be carefully redrafted and sensitively communicated. Moreover, empathy will need to be practiced at all levels of management for the team. A disengaged employee will be easiest to lose when faced with a stubborn policy which poses a direct choice between family and work. The hardest hit will be borne by the female workforce if such a dilemma were to arise. If diversity of workforce truly matters for the organisation, CHROs must foresee this situation before rolling out any new directions about must dos in 2022. Failure on this account is bound to have a telling impact! CHROs will have to stand up to the business in repelling any diktats that summarily overrun employee needs.
- Talent management – Retention and Attrition
The talent crunch that we are currently witnessing will continue in the next year as well. With the top talent being sought after by all, employers will need to go the extra mile and understand what the hooks for their employees are. A presumption that money will continue to be the currency to retain may fail as well as the cost of this outlook will indeed be heavy on the compensation and benefits bill.
Retaining top employees has always been and will continue to be the wiser option in talent management. Creating a clear career progression and visibility inline with the changing market landscape is imperative. Organisations must either foresee this and design roles that are contemporary and competitive, or be ready to part ways with their employees. If the employer is not able to provide the kind of challenge the resource desires, they must plan accordingly and have a curated plan in place. Plan proactively and not reactively toward this to enhance retention, as we are all aware that the great resignation has already begun.
Moreover, organizations must understand that a tectonic shift in compensation has taken place over the past 2 years, especially for the technology roles. Studies to calibrate compensation benchmarks with relevant peer companies must be undertaken. These studies must be current, fast and focussed only on meaningful levels, designations and companies. An average number will be very misleading and a disaster as far as planning goes.
Overall CHROs will do well by treating employees individually, and not as ‘mass’. Every individual brings a new story to work. If you make blanket policies, individuals will feel aggrieved and hence, organisations must recognize the non-work stress and future aspirations of employees, at an individual level.
There will be a mix set of employees with some willing to completely return, some willing to partially return, and some willing to only return on select days. If organisations are able to effectively manage each of these ‘individual stories’ without enforcing one rigid/specific way of working, they will be better placed to work than others. A well-structured plan of employees’ return to office can help HR leaders reinvent their role and create an advantageous experience for employees to improve collaboration and productivity.