Covid19 is here and will be there for a year for sure. World has learnt to be with it, dealing with it and trying to minimize its impact and influence. Organizations globally are not behind. All have taken actions as appropriate and have tried to mitigate the risks best possible given context and constraints. This has resulted in changing the way we look at our businesses, our customers, our operations, our employees and our stakeholders at large. No sector is left out from its impact while the degree of impact varies across sectors and across geographies. Impact is different for essential services products and services producers and providers as they got importance due to the lifesaving significance of their products and services. On the other hand, core sectors such as automotive, airlines, chemicals and fertilizers, fmcg, oil, power, textiles, etc have been impacted more severely.
When we look back now in mid of October 2020, three questions we got to answer -
1) What can continue?
2) What need to be stopped?
3) What need to be done differently?
Let us look at these questions from Indian companies Strategic HR imperative's perspective.
What are the strategic choices available?
a) Internal Integration: Organization's response to the current and expected future situation depends on internal alignment, collaboration and collective wisdom. This in real sense call for internal integration. The internal strengths need to be matched and mapped with the external opportunities which are existing or can be co-created with fresh and innovative point of view. The challenge is to balance between survival threats and growth aspirations. The normal passion and rigor of winning in the market place has got toned down to stay firm in the market. Retaining the relationships with the customers is vital than getting normal business although business does matter. Loosing customers would be disastrous. Relationship management is the key business and leadership competency today. Yes, due to covid19 organizations have quickly transitioned to digital platform yet human touch is still essential with customers. Customers still value quality, cost, service and availability. Additionally they are now seeking flexibility, adaptability and deeper level of understanding and trust especially to support them deal with current situation be it B2C or B2B or B2CH space. Businesses are facing major challenge in terms of keeping the employees actively engaged while most of them are working from home. Raising their interest in work related ownership and accountability to go extra mile to reach out and be flexible about the customers call for new and innovative ways of motivating and inspiring them. Traditional tactics have failed to deliver intended results. Working from home has added work life balance needs additional burden on the employee's daily routine. Families have also by now adjusted with their bread winning members full time availability at home. By and large household work load gets shared and this certainly reduces employees available time during working hours and their decision to set relative priority between work and work life balance needs. Plus the physical distance pose extra challenge for HR to think, anticipate and interpret such in-house challenges faced by employees and its impact on their daily decision making. Aligning them on the business challenges and forcing them to give higher priority to the business over the work life balance needs has more probability to back fire than succeed. HR has to deeply connect with employees and understand how they have learned to internally integrate with the work and work life balance needs. The challenge for HR now is to understand and align internal integration of organization with that of the employees and that too consistently to derive maximum returns both for the business and employees at large. The HR systems and practices need to be modified to make this happen. The capacity and capability of HR to understand this and put it across as a business case with data and ROI considerations is the real issue CEOs and CHROs are facing today. Thus, if we look at it Internal Integration has assumed different significance and strategic importance today to deal with present and near to far near future.
b) External differentiation: Organizations in their quest for winning in the global market place often rely on strategies of creating external differentiation through building and exploiting their products, services and talent as competitive advantage. Differentiation has to be perceived and felt by their customers thereby influencing their buying decisions in the favour of the organizations. This is usually managed in extremely competitive atmosphere as everyone does it. In current situation the landscape has changed drastically. Reaching to customers is primarily dependent on digital media. Readiness of organizations and its employees on digital savviness may differ in degree of readiness. Further the customers are extra cautious these days be it individual or corporate in terms of their preferences and choices and especially on investments. This has affected manufacturing operations as coid19 has affected many of them. Ensuring adherence to disaster management act compliance, SOP on codiv19 prevention practices, dealing with codid19 patients and the need to quick set up their quarantine centres and deal with health complications through insurance all in all has severely affected their ability to produce. Further the distribution got affected initially by lack of transportation and non-availability of loading and unloading migrant workers. Further the movement of sales and marketing executives was restricted which slowly and steadily opened up with fear and caution. Coming to services which got more easily digitally transitioned, multiple organizations started chasing same customers and people were bombarded through emails, social media posts, webinars and requests. The competition is now like a digital war amongst competitors. Coping with these changes in the thinking, behaving and responding patterns of the customers and ability of organizations and their customer contact employees to anticipate, understand, interpret and respond to it has been a major challenge again before CEOs and CHRO's. HR functional competency and capabilities to deal with rapid fire yet unpredictable changes was tested in every organization. Buying this experience from market was impossible as it was happening for the first time. So real challenge was more with getting ready and in ramping up the efforts vis-à-vis competition. So in real terms external differentiation was first tested at anticipating and understanding the changes in the external market. Second challenge was in evolving quick responses to it to de-risk further damage and then gain control over the situation. Thirdly to look at desired changes in skills, competencies and desired leadership behaviours in employees to manage it live yet effectively. Lastly challenge was in consolidating all three together as a system to be consistent and sustainable and better and before the competition.
Yashwant Bhaid - Vice President Group HR , Hexagon Nutrition, Mumbai.