Senior VP, HR, IndiGo On How To Keep Employees Motivated During Lowtimes

BW People in interaction with Raj Raghavan, Senior VP, HR, IndiGo discussing the changes happening in the HR sector due to this unprecedented situation and how can HR really help the top-level people to keep themselves motivated.


As aviation is the badly impacted sector, how are you managing the motivation amongst the top-level manager?

It is indeed saddening to witness a steep impact on the aviation sector due to Covid-19 spread globally, with IATA estimating the airline industry to globally lose between US$63 to 113 billion in revenue, questioning the very survival of many airlines. However, given our consistent focus on cost efficiency ever since IndiGo was born, we are trying our best to sustain the business during these unprecedented times. The most important aspect here is in ‘rising from the ashes like a phoenix’ to manage the mindset of our talent right now. Across all levels, it’s certainly difficult to manage what’s going on in the minds of our people and how to balance that so they may not succumb to any kind of negativity. We are ensuring that top-level management is also consistently connected with employees through clear, consistent, and regular communication, keeping the underlying thought as ‘we all are together in this’.

We are also creating content and running motivating campaigns to keep the spirit alive in us, with the current one being ‘Skies will be blue again’. We recently celebrated World Pilot’s Day with fervor by making a short video, in collaboration with other airlines in India, wherein pilots can be seen sharing their work from home routines while showcasing their eagerness to fly back again.

How to keep your employees working productively during the crisis?

The real measure of success while emerging from a crisis for an organization, is the ability to retain talent even during challenging times. Talent is the real currency for a company for measuring future success, hence it is critical to keep them engaged and motivated in order to ensure productivity. It is also important to communicate regularly, transparently, and consistently on the business condition. At IndiGo, we try and make all efforts to make sure that our communications are clear and prompt so as to maintain a continued streak of connection with our employees. Furthermore, the culture at IndiGo emphasizes every individual, wherein each of them knows that they are the ‘I’ in IndiGo. We ensure that the leaders are connecting with their teams regularly through online huddles, beyond work chats, and innovative ideation around business recovery.

How organizations are managing their talent amidst a crisis situation?

Employees are assets that need to be nurtured and preserved, especially in times of crisis. It is not only important to support them in efficiently delivering their work, in case they are working remotely, but also take care of their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. While restrictions in movement may cause physical health issues, staying locked inside the house may also be depressing for some people. The organization can support its employees with quick tips, videos, online sessions on physical fitness or counseling. At IndiGo, we partnered with third-party trainers for Zumba fitness sessions for physical and mental wellness. Additionally, team leaders regularly check in on their teammates to ensure their wellbeing. The more connected the team, the easier it is for employees to synergize and come with creative solutions and ideas to ensure business continuity.

Similarly, organizational leaders need to communicate clearly and transparently about the business, with what to expect next, along with a rationale. The message to resonate throughout the communication should be ‘we are in it together’. Leaders have the ability and responsibility to inspire confidence amongst their employees during such time by being transparent and inclusive.

What changes are you foreseeing post-COVID-19 in the HR segment?

Covid-19 has catalyzed the pace of evolution for various functions including HR, with swift tech adoption and a holistic view for every employee rather than just the times spent at the workplace. For instance, in most service provider/ technology organizations, work from home will be the new normal. Companies will revisit the need to invest in real estate w.r.t. physical workspaces. As per a recent Gartner global survey, 74% CFOs (of those surveyed) expect at least 5 percent of their workforce who previously worked in company offices will become permanent work-from-home employees post the pandemic. However, since 90% of the workforce in our industry is required to be on the field for operations, feasibility of working from home will mostly apply to the corporate staff. 

Let’s say, employees in technical support, backend services, comms department, finance, customer care, and even for that matter HR teams can work remotely if need be. This will require a seamless connection amongst the teams enabled by tech interface and no compromise on the delivery of tasks. Hence, work from home seems to be the trend for the future for a lot of industries, which can survive without having a workforce available physically. Furthermore, companies may also have to revisit leave and other policies w.r.t lockdown or quarantine periods.

How would the industry answer the new job seekers' post-pandemic?

As the world comes out its self-imposed lockdown, it would seem like a ‘great depression’ for a large portion of the workforce including the so-called ‘professionally qualified’ employees.

Across many industries, the fragility of depending on one job for financial sustenance has become strikingly and painfully obvious across for most employees. Combine that with the absence of any meaningful social safety net and relatively meager savings amongst most segments of our working class–it gets scary.

My personal sense is that young employees will no longer be willing to put all their ‘eggs’ in any one basket / company/ career. I expect employees to have at least one more ‘revenue generation’ path – be it a small business or gigs.

So far, this has been prevalent primarily with low wage-earning employees, who formed the initial core of Uber-type businesses, which did not present a conflict with the work and time demands with their ‘regular job’. With the ‘Uberization’ extending to professionally qualified and managerial employees, work norms and expectations will have to be re-thought and redesigned. Remote working will add its share of complexities to this mix.

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