We are seeing incredible resilience from organisations

Dr. Abhishek Goel, IIM Kolkata believes that strategies revolving around a continuous dialogue need to evolve so that the employers can understand the challenges that the employees are facing due to COVID-19. If employees see that the companies are extending them a helping hand, they would appreciate the same and contribute to productivity.

IBT:  What impact has COVID-19 had on managerial operations of firms across the industries? What strategies can they adopt in order to tide over this crisis?

Prof. Abhishek Goel: COVID-19 has impacted managerial activities across industries differently. While some industries such as insurance, telecom, e-commerce & technology-based ones have witnessed a positive trend; others including aviation, hotels and entertainment have not been so lucky. Therefore, it is almost impossible to have a single strategy to tide over the crisis. During these testing times, it is sensible that companies introspect as to why they really are in this business. Therefore, there is no one particular strategy for businesses to adopt to tide over this crisis.

IBT: Be it emotionally, mentally or in terms of health, the pandemic has taken a toll on employees all across the nation. In your opinion, how should employers keep the morale of the workers high during these testing times?

Prof. Abhishek Goel: A healthy employee is vital for an organization’s growth, especially when it is a business where you work with people. The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone. Therefore, organisations need to support people more, since workplaces have become the second home for most people as they spend most parts of their day in offices. As Mr. Ratan Tata pointed out, this is the perfect opportunity for a company to show its employees that it cares about them.

Strategies revolving around a continuous dialogue need to evolve so that the employers can understand the challenges that the employees face. For example, many employees are saying they do not even have the infrastructure, say a high speed internet connection. In such cases, it is in the organizations’ interest that these people have a fast or a high-speed internet connection available at their home.

They can bear these costs completely or share them and help such employees who are trying to make two ends meet. This little help from the employer can go a long way in cementing the bond between them and their employees.

IBT: Given that WFH has now become the de-facto mode of operation, what tactics can be employed to ensure optimal labour productivity?

Prof. Abhishek Goel: There are many industries where remote working is simply not an option. For example, workers need to be there in the factories and logistics providers need to be there on the road in order to make connections between point A and point B. Similarly, the warehouse operators cannot work from home. In such industries where the presence of workers is imperative, companies need to ensure their safety through measures like regular health checkups.

However, in the context of those industries where the employees can work from home and still contribute effectively to the economy, the organization has to be very clear about supporting their people through things like laptops and internet support. If employees see that the companies are extending them a helping hand, they would really appreciate the same and contribute to the productivity.

IBT: Before the crisis, companies lacked policies related to remote working. But now if the situation, say for industries like IT, stays for some more time, how does the employer regulate the employees in a way that is mutually beneficial?

Prof. Abhishek Goel: There are various ways to look at this. At the end of the day, it depends really on what the organization wants to do, and to what extent they want to control and regulate the conduct of their employees. So, on one hand, there is this belief that our people are capable and they will conduct themselves professionally in the environment, they will be able to differentiate between home and office.For example, if the commitment is from 9 to 6, they are available at their desk from 9 to  6.

At the other end of this spectrum would be those organizations which have loggers installed to record these details. Ideally, we don’t know which end of the spectrum the organization would be, but most of them would lie between these 2.

IBT: What is your take on securing the confidentiality of data?

Prof. Abhishek Goel: For confidentiality, I think, one thing the organizations should be doing is to issue what they think is a good employee conduct. They should probably identify some of the best practices, educate people lot more about how to use their devices.

In a way, we are at a very good point in history. Imagine if this would have happened 5-8 years ago, the devices were not there, internet connectivity was not there, organizations have allowed BYOD (bring your own device) and made the transition to switching to private networks. So there are ways and means this can be done.

All factors considered, we have seen incredible resilience from the organizations and people, and that ingenuity and ability to solve problems makes one hopeful.

Dr Abhishek Goel is an Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. He has done his MBA from Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. His areas of interest include organization change and development, organization design, organizational culture, leadership development, coaching, talent management, assessment centers and multicultural teams.

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