Article (December-2021)


Employee Relations : Transform habitual thinking and behaviour

Dr. Arun Kumar Sinha

Designation : -   Visiting Professor (MBA & MHRM) and Ex - Senior Vice President (IR & HRD)

Organization : -  Aditya Birla Group, Kolkata


10221 Total View        

Visualising at the post covid business scenario, would IR/ER front also be changed or will remain same and if yes, what changed dimensions do you foresee emerging in industrial Relations/Employee relations?

AK The business world has been learning and preparing for competing and thriving under extreme VUCA conditions. Adding to this a new disruptive force corona virus pandemic has emerged creating a medical challenge to control it and badly affecting the lives and livelihood of the people across the world. In order to curb the spread of this virus lockdown was inevitable for months together   which badly affected the economy. Lockdown and unlock situations are still being tried out and no one really knows when it will end and when vaccine will be available for its prevention and cure. 

Under such uncertainty we need to learn to live with Corona and smartly and safely go back to jobs and businesses without being in denial of its presence. Several organisations and institutions, wherever it suited allowed their employees to   Work from Home (WFH) and this arrangement will continue with flexible options. But this does not provide viable solution to all business sectors where majority of the work needs to be done with hands and legs. 

Such pandemic situation has been unprecedented and the people experiencing it have developed fear, anxiety and uncertainty   in their mind about the future. It has changed the working environment overnight and the new normal situation of working will not be the same as before. We need to think differently and re-imagine, re-position and re-invent the working process to emerge as winner in the fast changing business environment. Employees returning to work need to follow social distancing, health and safety protocols.

The new normal working necessitates paradigm shift in dealing and engaging with employees. It requires building individual and collective resilience. This will help in building confidence with emotional well being and motivate them to work with changed mind set, future focus, better engagement and collaboration. Both industrial relations and employee relations have to play their part with the employees returning to work and also with employees working from home with better contact, improved communication and empathy. The industrial relations need to take care of other related players such as trade unions, government agencies and the surrounding society with regular and effective communication. This will help in making embedded cultural change and bring success beyond the crisis.

Are managers ready to address this challenge and  what kind of re-skilling/up-skilling is required for HR/IR managers to handle workforce issues in post covid era?

AK It is now well accepted that working   before and post covid is not going to be same. The businesses will now have to field themselves with new avatar to succeed in emerging   business environment. They will have to operate with mindset, upgraded culture, active employee engagement and collaboration in different functions and levels having better execution capability.

Every crisis brings opportunity. It has given opportunity to HR/IR Managers to quickly respond with renewed energy and focus to facilitate the transformational change, more business focused and  work as  Employee Care Facilitator to help employees and provide them space and motivation for high level of engagement and productivity. HR/IR needs to reorient themselves to play a very significant role in this value chain of moving from employee experience to customer experience. 

IR needs to have the paradigm shift in their approach in handling people issues for better engagement and productivity in the evolving work, workforce and workplace. They need to develop and sharpen their skills in compassionate communication, influencing skills, behavioural coaching and adaptive negotiation skills. Simultaneously they need to keep themselves fully aware of business and working environment with regard to safety and sustainability.

HR/IR need to deal with the following issues in the post covid environment.

1. Readiness of the workforce - physically and emotionally.

2. Focusing on well being of employees - physical, mental, financial and social.

3. Planning to work with reduced workforce in different permutation and combination.

4. Planning   for re-skilling and up skilling with proper analysis and evaluation.

5. Transforming habitual thinking and behaviour - avoiding replaying past negative events.

6. Establishing better coordination and collaboration between employee, employer, trade unions and Government agencies.

7. Building organisation immune system with right people having right attitude and skills, Values at all levels.

How technology is going to  impact ER front especially when social media use by workers against organizations and its management  has made IR handling more fragile. What do you suggest how organizations  should prepare themselves to manage this aspect?

AK Today our society and business are driven by digital technology and influenced by social media and video outlets. Although every aspect of new technology is positive but at the same time it can't be denied that it will get misused.

Social media as a powerful communication tool helps in building collaboration, sharing of ideas among the team for problem solving and strengthening working relationship. It also helps the organisation to connect and communicate required information to the target group speedily for operational and implementation purposes. Thus it adds both in internal communication with the employees and external communication with other stake holders.

The misuse of social media by employees will fall in two categories - one with the tools and facility provided by the employer and another with their personal gadgets such as smart phone having several applications. Employee misuse of company's computer, e-mail and internet facilities is common issue in the workplace. Therefore, the employers should have IT and social media policy setting out clearly how these facilities should be used by employees. Internet use and social media policy should clearly spell out that harassment of colleagues or criticism of organisation and management on social media will come under employee misconduct. Now a days relatively simple technology allows employers to track time spent online, sites accessed and content downloaded and/or uploaded. If misconduct is identified, it should be immediately be dealt to end the abuse.

In fact misuse of social media for vested interest and with malafide intention is a behavioural issue. It can be minimised if there is an awareness programme conducted periodically to make employees to understand the parameters and consequences of such misconduct and implications of cyber laws. 

To read the full article, Subscribe now!

About the Author : Dr. Arun Kumar Sinha is Visiting Professor (MBA & MHRM) and Former Senior Vice President, (IR & HRD), Domestic Textiles Business, Aditya Birla Group, Kolkata.