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There is No Better Time To Showcase Your Empathy and Deep Human Connection With One Another: Sonali Dutta
In the recent interaction with BW People, Sonali Dutta, VC - Corporate Affairs & HR at Bry-Air shared her insights about the recent changing dynamics of HR as a function, role of empathy, and how to keep employees upbeat and more engaged in this screen world.
Do you think empathy can play a major role in these current times?
More than ever before. Before I deep dive into the criticality of empathy, one thing I must say is that COVID-19 has given a new meaning to various corporate jargon which were only seen only in the HR books or the posters across your office wall. For instance, Work-From-Home became the need of the hour in April and also in May . There are many who continue to do so and there is no denying that the corporates had quickly adapt to the ever-changing scenario in the first weeks of the Lockdown. Things have now kind of “settled” down in the new normal with both employees and companies ramping up their IT infrastructure.
Talking of empathy, there is no better time to fully showcase your deep human connection with one another. Pushed to live inside our houses, coordinating through phones, with families around and literally no work hours understanding what the person on the hand is going through is not everybody’s cup of tea. It takes a lot of observation, perseverance, and patience to empathize with me another, and as much as it is critical today… it will help human beings in a long way. I think a lot of good traits have been revealed within the teams , a better understanding and teamship has developed with many people stepping up.
What are measures you are taking being a Head HR to keep people of organization upbeat and more productive?
The world has seen a lot of uncertainty in the last few months and will continue to do so, and thus, it is necessary for all of us to quickly orient ourselves to the new reality and adapt accordingly. The future belongs to people who can multi-task, adapt, reskill, and be productive.
And that’s what we are doing, helping and nudging people to adapt. The important thing In our company, every team leader is the HR facilitator for his or her team. Policies can be rolled out centrally but the ethos has to transferred through guidance and hand-holding. It is imperative that every team leader along with the senior management hand holds their team members to learn new skills and get doing their job. It is important for every team member to feel that their contribution is important and thus, build up their productivity. Unlike the BC era (Before COVID) where people could manage their work with somewhat lesser supervision, it has become important to keep track and supervise every team member closely. The continuous emotional connection is important so that people are not forgotten and they are important to the success of the company. We have done a lot of training in the last few months. Video calls have helped to keep to certain forms and structures.
How is it important to promote mental health also when you are fully operational?
When we talk of a person’s well-being then mental health is a very important aspect especially in this VUCA world where a person has to deal with a lot of uncertainty, fear of losing jobs, maintaining personal equations with bosses and colleagues, and deal with ambiguities and complexities on a day-to-day basis. Thrown in the social distancing norm forced on human beings by COVID-19, the little escape many of us had in terms going out, meeting friends, venting out about a bad incident or a bad day has also been robbed away from us. Fortunately for us , there is daily interaction , even on a personal level, employees has been fully occupied and thus morale remains high.
Now amid all this, the role of a workplace in ensuring its employees’ wellbeing and promoting mental health has a big role. Empathy plays a big role and we have taken challenges head on. Our Manufacturing facilities had become operational at the end of April and office staff have already been started coming from the beginning of May. All the safety measurements had been taken care off with regular and continuous audits and our employees had a large role to play. Most of the people were happy to be back though there were a few concerns, which was handled as we progressed. There is a strict roster in place so that 100% of employees are not in office every day and now we have a fairly full house every day.
As one steps out of their homes, there will always be that little niggling concern but that is assuaged by two main things: 1. Full knowledge and transparency about safeties,hygiene and ventilation being taken by the company 2. They are fully engaged/occupied with their work and the fact that their colleagues are also coming in, thus the mental comfort builds up.
The only ONLY way to do that is to keep everybody stimulated, together, productive, and motivated through continuous communication. Apart from the Management communications, every team leader, senior managers, management team members are in touch through phone, Whatsapp , etc,. There is a close bonding at every level.
How technology plays an important role during this COVID 19? How are you ensuring employee experience in this screen world?
We had started our journey of digitalization sometime last year and we have taken this opportunity to fasten the pace by adopting more collaborative tools, upgrading our IT infrastructure, improving connectivity.
Talking of digitization for efficient manufacturing, we now have a paperless shop floor where we use tablets to view manufacturing drawing, production reporting, and tracking. The Enterprise Resource Planning Software is deployed for manufacturing, purchase, sales, planning, warehouse, and finance. It records data in real-time and helps managers keep track of various operations by sending real-time updates for material, invoicing, sales orders, and inventory monitoring. The day-to-day workflows are approved using automation and are directly connected to employees’ mobile devise ad mails.
As social distancing at the workplace becomes the new normal, digitization and automation have proved to be a big plus. For engineering efficiency, we have deployed Siemens PLM (Product Life cycle Management) software which helps us make unified, information-driven decisions at every stage of the product lifecycle also automate the engineering process by using workflows. Digital library of components including datasheets and drawings in Engineering server and Digital drawings/specification sheet of component linked in ERP. The manufacturing drawings can be released on the server and available on TAB at different work stations in production. For all the employees working from home, for their convenience, we have provided engineering team connectivity to engineering server from Remote location.
We have fully implemented HRMS internally in Pahwa Group which facilitates the Payroll Management, Employee database Management, PMS, Training process. Employee's queries are also getting handled through the feature of Helpdesk in HRMS.
According to you, what changes would you see in the HR fraternity in the New Normal?
I expect the HR officers across the world to re-write policies and guidance for business continuity. So whether it working in an office or from home, employees are enabled to give full productivity. As an organization, we have always prided ourselves for being humane in our approach, and as I mentioned earlier, more like a family, where an individual is known and not just an “ID Number”. Empathy has been an integral part of our culture and the effort continues to ensure we imbibe that in every one of our employees through counseling, training, and communication. Of course, collaboration, digitization, and automation will a vital part of processes.
What are the major positive things that were observed or experienced during the lockdown and you would be grateful for?
1. Resilience and Adaptability
2. Team-ship and Empathy
3. Stepping up to take on more
4. The true meaning of Work-life balance
5. More productivity or accountability in WFH