Group Head HR, JM Financial Believes that New Normal Viewpoint Would be Open, Receptive, and much more Appreciative
In an interaction with BW People, Anil Salvi, MD & Group Head Human Resources, JM Financial talks about how HR as a function got impacted due to the recent worldwide outbreak; how are they keeping their workforce upbeat and engaged thoroughly.
How has the role of the HR evolved post-COVID as remote working emerged as the new normal?
Well, to my mind, HR as a function and as a team was not prepared to handle the impact of such a massive scale. So, it has been baptism by fire and they seem to be working hard to ensure the right balance between the employer and employee Expectations. In most organizations they played the role of communication facilitators, to begin with, and moved on to focus on building efficiency and engagement as the situation turned acute.
The growth and sustainability of an organization are largely influenced by its HR practices and agility that the HR function brings to the table. The extent of success is also defined by HR’s ability to leverage the cultural strength of the organization. In short, a comprehensive people-centric approach determines the outcome of the process of managing a delicate situation involving employer and employee. From the functional perspective, HR would have to take responsibility for situations that could be either favorable or challenging and work around them to ensure seamless business continuity.
HR must take care of the concerns of the employees as well as who are transitioning to the remote working model. At JM Financial, our team efficiently strategized the transition for employees by ensuring access to remote-working and other office tools so that they could set up their workstations at home wherever needed. We wanted to continue to build the employee capabilities while maintaining the capacity intact and we largely have been successful in achieving that goal.
What are the changes that the COVID-19-pandemic-induced workplace scenario has brought in to the employer-employee relationship?
The impact of Covid-19 on our lives and livelihoods has been unprecedented and enough has already been said on the distress and uncertainty the pandemic has brought in to our surroundings. Its continued effect on workplace dynamics has also been unprecedented and the pandemic continues to stress-test the relationship equilibrium between two of the most critical stakeholders of any organization – employer and employees. Both the stakeholders’ perspective on each other has altered significantly. The employer now expects its employees to acknowledge and make sense of the challenges that the organization is dealing with, for which it was not prepared. On the other hand, the employees are expecting their employers to stand by them during these challenging times. Meeting each other’s expectations has always been an integral part of the employer-employee relationship narrative. During and post-COVID, the viewpoint has changed and will continue to evolve and the key factors which will maintain that critical balance would be transparency, empathy, and active communication.
How are you keeping your employees engaged and taking care of their mental well-being in the pandemic scenario?
Although working from home or remote working has emerged as a new normal, employees, in general, need adequate support and flexibility from the management to get used to the new way of working. We at JM Financial managed to do that through a gradual process.
Before the announcement of the nationwide lockdown in March, we were one of the few companies in our sector to reach out to our employees with safety guidelines and work-from-home norms. The idea was to create an enabling environment so that our employees don’t have to risk their health by commuting to work using public transports. Our ‘safety-first’ approach remains the same till date.
After the initial employee outreach, our leaders have been in constant touch with their team members, updating them on the prevailing market situation, taking regular updates on the work-related progress as well as their physical and mental well-being, and motivating them to stay focussed amid various external distractions. We have also ensured that our employees across levels have been remunerated during the lockdown period so that they could feel assured and concentrate on the job at hand. The continuous reassurance has truly worked for us.
Moreover, we also organized a few webinars as part of ‘Knowledge Sharing’ for our employees to promote collaborations and engagements and the results have been satisfactory. In addition, we also conducted online Yoga sessions, etc. to commemorate special days as well as encouraged staff to take up training sessions through the in-house learning platform to promote skill development. We are always on the lookout for effective and innovative ways to strengthen synergy amongst our people and we didn’t allow the pandemic to slow this process.
As a leader; what are those things you made sure while taking care of people of your organization?
Well, our HR fundamentals have always been based on three basic tenets - communication, accessibility, and empathy. Following those values, our leadership team has been ensuring continuous communication with their team members so that there is no ambiguity or misunderstanding. We draw strength from our robust employee support culture which JM Financial has developed painstakingly over the years. Such employee-centric ethos offers assurance to our employees that the company is always there to protect their interests. A compassionate approach to employee management has been an integral part of JM Financial’s corporate philosophy. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have put the well-being of our employees ahead of everything else and the ‘safety-first’ approach has always been kept on the forefront.
During the recent outbreak, most of us got time for contemplation. What are those things that you discovered about yourself?
The disruptive impact of the pandemic on our daily life and economy gives us an opportunity to take a step back to contemplate. A deeper introspection reveals that nothing is permanent in the world and we can’t take our families, friends, work, and colleagues for granted, not even nature. In fact, the pandemic has made us realize and appreciate the value of these precious gifts that we all should always be thankful for and cherish.
The unplanned hiatus from the day-to-day grind of work-life, thanks to the pandemic, has presented us with a different life perspective. We have also discovered how technology and remote working have become an integral part of our professional life. The approach to life will be more patient, thankful, receptive, and welcoming, going forward. Never say never, as they say.
What is the definition for the 'New Normal’ for you looks like?
The immediate new normal would be a calibrated and well-measured approach towards work without compromising efficiency and productivity. The tendency to become manic, appear busy, and mechanical has run its course. At least that is what I am hoping and praying for.
Thanks to this time of uncertainty, many naysayers have become much more receptive to the advantages of using technology and remote working. The new normal viewpoint would be open, receptive, and much more appreciative. It will also revisit the role of corporates in society and hopefully will usher in an era of shared reality.