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Fostering A More Equitable Workplace For Women: CHRO, Premier Energies
Highlighting the shaping of the hybrid work model, Niyathi Madasu, CHRO, Premier Energies claims, “In today’s world, the office is where people come together to collaborate, innovate, create, and build culture, with face-to-face interactions being a valuable part of the equation”
The pandemic has shifted the ground beneath our feet and fundamentally changed the way we live and work. Overnight, businesses across all sectors were forced to shift to remote working models and that is here to stay, undoubtedly. The hybrid work model has come as a boon to quite a few women who were on a mid-career break. For many of them, this has been an easier path to get back, as most firms are increasing their hiring capacity and becoming open to employees working from anywhere.
In an exclusive interaction, Niyathi Madasu, CHRO, Premier Energies discussed how technology is now a major driving force for business continuity, how the company is promoting women participation in the workforce? She has also discussed their initiatives for employee experience like revamping leave policy and more.
Q.1 Being a company that is into the renewable energy sector, how is the company promoting women?
Premier Energies is at the forefront when it comes to promoting women workforce. Our manpower speaks for themselves. In the existing factory, we have 35% women on-roll and close to 55% women off-roll. In fact, 3 out of 8 leaders in the management team are women. With our graduate engineering program, we have close to 20% of the women joining the force. We ensure that all safety and statutory processes are in place for women to feel safe and respected in our workforce. At Premier, we believe in fostering a culture that stands by women in every shape and form and creates a more equitable workplace for women.
Q.2 Do you think this disruption period has been a boon for women in the new normal?
Companies across sectors have adapted flexibility as one of the key driving forces for their business continuity. A large-scale workforce shifted their work to remote locations, and employees were relieved of long commutes and switched to working from their homes. Companies are increasingly adopting remote working or hybrid working models in the wake of Covid-19 has certainly benefitted women.
The pandemic has however worsened the situation as women experience gender bias that greatly overlaps between their personal and professional responsibilities. As women step into the working field again, they are looking to organisations for crucial support that can keep them on the career map.
For India particularly, there is an economic advantage to support and level the playing field for women in the workforce. According to the findings by Niti Aayog, women account for almost half (48%) of India's population, but female participation in the labour force is less than 20 per cent, the lowest in South Asia. Potentially, pushing women's participation up to the global average of 48 per cent in the next 10 years can add another USD 700 billion to GDP growth.
The hybrid work model has come as a boon to quite a few women who were on a mid-career break. For many of them, this has been an easier path to get back, as most firms are increasing their hiring capacity and becoming open to employees working from anywhere.
At Premier, we have ensured that new mothers and pregnant women have been allowed to work from home and when the restrictions ease, we will review it on a case-to-case basis. We have always encouraged women to take up leadership roles in every way possible.
Q.3 How are you addressing the perks and challenges of the Hybrid Work Model? How are you redefining employee experience?
The pandemic has shifted the ground beneath our feet and fundamentally changed the way we live and work. Overnight, businesses across all sectors were forced to shift to remote working models. There is no doubt that remote work is here to stay. We have all seen and experienced the challenges of a remote workforce. Even the most traditional organisations understood that work can go on, effective meetings can be conducted, and even virtual trade shows and exhibitions can all be done remotely without hampering productivity.
However, one cannot completely eliminate the need for a physical workplace. While there may be some cost savings from a real estate perspective by reimagining how we use our office space, a far more valuable opportunity is in maintaining a healthy and positive employee culture. What we need is a hybrid work model that is beneficial to both employees and the organization. Hybrid working models will be critical in the coming months and years ahead as organizations adopt operational flexibility with remote work and evolving employee preferences.
Being in a manufacturing setup, we did not have the freedom to simply move into 100 per cent remote operations. We had to have a hybrid workforce in place – which meant some of us had to be in the office or factory to ensure business continuity. At Premier, our first plan of action was to identify critical teams in the factory and office who would eventually come in if lockdown restrictions eased out. We made sure new mothers, pregnant women and people with co-morbidities or any other vulnerable employee were not part of this list and in fact, we sent them communication that they could work remotely. However, amongst the chaos, employees' health and safety remained on our radar continuously and we acted with utmost precautions keeping in mind business requirements as well.
The pandemic has taught us that; no longer will the office serve as the only place where work gets done; the pandemic proved that work can often happen from anywhere. Instead, in today’s world, the office is where people come together to collaborate, innovate, create, and build culture, with face-to-face interactions being a valuable part of the equation.
Q.4 How is technology enabling HR as a function to evolve?
Technology innovation has been the cornerstone of the evolving work culture that the world is currently witnessing. While the customer-centric functions are using technology to deliver a superior experience to the customers, support functions like Human Resources (HR) have turned to technology to automate and streamline key processes of an employee lifecycle including hiring, onboarding, and training.
A decade back, the role of HR was defined by standardized practices of recruitment and employee engagement, often categorized by piles of paperwork related to compliance, hiring and employee information. However, today emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Augmented Reality and Blockchain have vastly impacted human resources function by transforming key processes like hiring, talent management, and payroll. Another big area that technology has helped organisations with, is compliance. While earlier organisations had to rely on IT storage servers for this, today cloud-based solutions have streamlined the process and reduced the paperwork.
The pandemic highlighted a need to invest in digital technologies such as video conferencing tools, cloud-based systems etc. Organisations are increasingly looking at trends such as machine learning, artificial intelligence which will continue to change and transform the way we work. This will be the future of work, striking a balance between technology and the future workforce.
Q.5 What are the initiatives you are taking at Premier to make sure the employee experience is at best?
Every organization responded to the pandemic differently. From ensuring employee engagement at all levels to maintaining business continuity. When it comes to the responsibility of HR, organizations must rethink, reimagine and reconsider how they foster talent, deliver services, and strengthen their organizations through a forward-thinking strategy.
At Premier Energies, one of the first steps as an HR leader I took was to interact with employees by reassuring them of the safety precautions the organization has taken. Keeping the health and safety of employees in mind, we were quick to identify the minimum number of people required in the factory to ensure business continuity. With safety protocols such as temperature testing at entry with contactless thermometers, double mask mandatory, social distancing, visuals boards and staggered shifts in place, we were able to curtail any liabilities.
As part of Premier’s continued commitment to secure the health and safety of its employees and community at large, we conducted free testing of all our employees, labourers and contractors. In light of any employee testing positive for Covid- 19, we arranged isolation rooms. In addition, employees are being provided with nutritious home-cooked food, timely medicine, and doctor consultancy at hand. Additionally, we also introduced a comprehensive Covid-19 leave policy and interest-free loans for employees to meet with emergency medical expenses.
Q.6. How are you re-looking at your leave policies for your employees to help them maintain their work-life balance in these times?
The events of the past year have been a game-changer in many ways. It has finally put the misconception to rest that remote working means a loss in productivity. If anything, the past year showed the opposite to be true. Despite all odds, from personal health crises, taking care of family, and dealing with initial technology challenges of remote work – productivity did not waver.
At Premier, we conduct real-time feedback sessions in order to understand our employees and their needs better. In this process, we identify problems that the employees might be facing and solve them accordingly. Given the pandemic, employee burnout is inevitable, to tackle this, we conduct regular zoom motivational speakers in order to navigate through mental health issues in these turbulent times.
Being in a manufacturing setup, it is exceedingly difficult to have a 100 per cent remote workforce. We came up with a policy that identified employees in the corporate office who needed to come in on a staggered way to support the manufacturing units. Despite this, employees' health and safety remain our top priority. To further support our employees, we introduced a comprehensive COVID-19 leave policy for our employees' benefit in case of contracting the virus.