The Business Continuity at Urban Company
Being named as one of those very few companies that did not lay off anyone and did not deduct any benefits or compensation during the pandemic for any of its employees is indeed a noteworthy step.
Launched in Delhi in November 2014 with a handful of service professionals. Over the past five years, it has expanded its footprint four countries (India, Australia, Singapore, and the UAE). Recently, the editorial department of BW People got into a candid conversation with Ms. Sana Nayyar, Vice President, HR, Urban Company and got a hand hold of how the company has been succeeding ahead post the pandemic fever.
How has Urban Company (UC) re-defined its goal-setting strategy to stand and compete against other such home maintenance and repair services providers in market?
Since Covid, a big challenge was to ensure the safety of our customers and professionals. To achieve this, we went through a lot of changes in our way of delivering services, providing all the safety equipment to our professionals, remote training, changes in SOPs, technology changes etc. Further, we extensively communicated to our consumers about our 8-step safety protocol via app notifications, SMSes and social media. Since then, we have received a phenomenal response and just in a span of 4-5 months we are back to pre-covid levels.
What are some of the ways in which UC is fostering the spirit of connectivity and collaboration at work?
Employees can definitely feel isolated and disconnected while working from home for a long duration. To tackle this we took some of the following steps:
a. Increased the frequency of Townhalls: Our founders and leaders increased the frequency of townhalls to ensure everyone was aware of the state of business and other key initiatives that were being undertaken.
b. Fire-side chats with leadership from various industries, such as Mukesh Bansal Founder Cult; Alan Berkson, Global Director of Community Outreach at Freshworks; Smit Singh, National record holder, Indian shooting team; Lt. Gen Madhuri Kanitkar and many more.
c. Capabilities for remote connectivity: While a lot of employees did not have access to laptops our team ensured everyone had access to be able to connect with others.
d. All managers made sure there were several team catch-ups and one-on-ones during the week
e. We introduced other cross-team information sharing platforms such as team showcases, "ask me anything" sessions by subject experts
How are the leaders managing and retaining the talent at UC and alongside, what is the succession plan going to be in years to come?
UC was one of the few companies that did not lay off anyone and did not deduct any benefits or compensation during this time for anyone. Since then UC has been committed to growing as a company. We know recruiting and retaining top talent will always be an on-going tussle and we continue to focus on our talent acquisition and talent development strategies. We continue to hire great people and continue to focus on hiring "bar-raisers" across teams. Potential employees are always interested in knowing who they will be working with and ensuring a world-class team is for us to build out!
When it comes to hiring specialised talent, what will be your talent-acquisition strategy like?
We focus on hiring great people who have been known in the industry for being problem solvers and doing impactful work wherever they have been. We also focus on hiring bar-raisers across all teams continuously, people who add a dimension to our existing base and help in creating that opportunity to learn and grow with every person that we hire.
With the coming in of AI and other such technological innovation and less rush, Will we see a reduced workforce or super-specialized people on field in the ‘new normal?’
Absolutely - overall nature of work, nature of talent and specialisations of people will change over time and each of us will be part of that change. People should constantly look to skill themselves and move in the right direction as things evolve.
What are some of the noteworthy HR lessons learnt during the lockdown?
The most important lesson is that leaders and organisations must communicate and then communicate some more! Everything relies on the frequency of communication and the message. If we are able to constantly communicate to the team about the state of affairs and what does the future looks like, it helps our extended teams to focus on their work and feel more at ease with respect to their roles and their contribution to the bigger picture. We do not think that this will change even when we all return to office.
Another great reminder was investing in people - we indexed on keeping our people strategy to continue to be people-focused as the country went into lockdown and we have seen how the extended UC team has rallied around as we fought our way back to recovery to pre-covid levels in business and how each member of the UC team has contributed to it. Building and investing in the right team is what keeps great organizations sailing through!
Has there been any change in UC’s workplace policy to ensure employee safety and wellbeing? If yes, then kindly elaborate upon the same.
We have built a very robust return-to-workplace plan to ensure the safety and security of all who come in:
● UC Care App - that allows to track well-being across a range of symptoms
● Maintaining minimum strength in our offices
● Re-marking of seating arrangements, hallways, common usage areas, such as pantry and restrooms, to ensure maximum hygiene
● Training of our support staff
● Daily screening - temperature checks of all members who enter the organization
● Mapping of all contacts who come into office to ensure we are able to manage contact tracing swiftly
How different departments like HR and Tech integrate to revolutionize employee experience?
Our engineering team has been a backbone for all our automation requirements in order to reduce the amount of manual interventions required to run the plethora of administrative processes in HR such as performance reviews, recognition for employees, reminders through google sheets, letter generations, etc. We have been able to reduce the amount of time spent doing these activities and definitely increased the delight of stakeholders who get their requests serviced quickly and efficiently.
What are some of the upskilling initiatives at UC, which is helping it’s existing employee base to be future ready?
We launched Urban Academy on 27th of March, with a view to creating an in-house learning platform for all of our team members. As we transitioned into working from home, people had slightly more time in their hands, and we wanted to help them by giving a new initiative to explore. We are very proud to have run more than 15 different programs through the Academy and our mentor board boasts of leaders of UC, from Founders to the AVPs