Building a Compelling Workplace in the New Normal

Reported by: |Updated: December 31, 2020

Priya Vasudevan, President Human Resources at Liberty General Insurance

HR initiatives in response to the pandemic:

Ravi Lalwani: What are the immediate changes that HR has introduced in response to the covid crisis?

Priya Vasudevan: Settling down the employees in a WFH setup was the immediate need of the hour. The enterprise service team (called admin team in most of the corporates) enabled this transition – be it moving the desktops to employee homes or helping in couriering the laptops. While we were creating the work set-up at our staff’s homes, it was especially important for us to make them feel connected. We have introduced daily themed interactive emails like Wellness Wednesday, Thanksgiving Thursday, etc, and digital engagement activities based on company values, ‘Put People First’ demonstrated by leadership through branch connects.

With the increase in covid cases across India, we felt it highly necessary to have a holistic health solution for employees and families for covid and non-covid cases. We have launched ‘WE CARE’ that included a doctor on call, home quarantine solutions, covid care kit, hospitalization support through the exclusive helpline, awareness sessions by employees who are doctors, 24×7 mental wellness helpline, etc.

Pulse check calls helped us gauge employee pulse and identifying and remedying pain points. Monthly engagement surveys further helped to validate the actions through positive trends. Due to the pandemic, the traditional sales method was affected and a gamified version of sales contests enabled to create a sense of contribution and achievement while generating revenue through healthy competition.

What percentage of your employees do you expect will permanently WFH after the covid crisis is over?

While most organizations are looking at WFH as the new normal, we went about it a little differently. We intended to institutionalize WFH – which meant employee voice and organizational needs are both equally important in this decision making. So, we constituted a cross-functional task force, consisting of senior managers who worked on the WFH approach holistically using various lenses. These included employee experience, real estate cost optimization, business process modification to support WFH, IT enablement, etc. The task force rolled out employee surveys to understand employee preference and tried to match it with their role requirement. After deep and consistent work, we have arrived at consensus that ~ 50% of employees would be working from home, either fully or partially. This percentage will not shift significantly in the coming years as we want to maintain this blend of physical and virtual connections.

What training initiatives have you undertaken to help your employees be more digitally savvy about using all kinds of productivity tools?

In the enforced WFH environment, it was crucial to bring in scalable development solutions. We introduced LinkedIn learning solutions, which provided a plethora of customizable courses for employees. We have designed courses that helped employees to build resilience, managers to lead virtually, employees to manage their time effectively in a virtual environment. One of our organizational values is ‘Put People First’. We believe that when we trust our employees, they reciprocate by living up to that trust. Hence, we have not deployed any productivity monitoring tools. However, we introduced and socialized collaboration tools like MS Teams that enabled employees to work with and across teams seamlessly as they would do in a physical environment.

In the new normal, what employee perks do you think will go up and will go down?

Organizations will increasingly add on benefits that will enable the employees to work comfortably from home. These will include reimbursing or granting allowances for internet bandwidth, stationary, ergonomic furniture, etc. Beyond this, I believe some intangibles are also there as perks – personal time, attention from managers/leadership, equity irrespective of location that employee operates. All of these are perks that will enhance the new normal. There are trade-offs for sure – business travel would decrease and opportunity for employees to work in and visit newer destinations too will come down.

Please share examples of digital transformation within the HR function.

Moving almost all HR processes to digital mode was the challenge that HR functions rose to quite successfully. While core HR processes were already digitized engagement initiatives, employee onboarding/offboarding to a virtual medium happened smoothly in many organizations. The next level of digitization will be around the topic of organization culture – building, socializing, and sustaining the culture that has given a unique identity to organizations.

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