Article (May-2020)


INTERVIEW : HR should enlarge focus from employee welfare to human welfare

Dr. T.V. Rao

Designation : -   Chairman TVRLS & Ex- Professor

Organization : -  IIMA, Ahmedabad


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How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the world of HR?

TVR It has impacted every single human being and therefore very significantly for HR at the corporation level and for the government at country and society level. The government itself including the PM becomes People Manager significantly besides crisis manager... All functions and departments will need to focus on people as the virus affects people and is spread through people. In corporate and organised sectors this gives many more challenges, new responsibilities as well as opportunities for HR to care for people as it is the people driven function.

What lasting impacts do you think the outbreak will be for the HR function?

TVR It will (and I wish it should) make HR more "focussed" and "human" and enlarges outlook from employee welfare to human welfare. It also provides an opportunity for HR to reinvent itself as a spiritual function to lift up the spirits and spiritual levels of people. It will bring out the genuineness of each HR Professional in HR as it puts to test humane aspects of HR.

What should be the current primary focus of HR people in present turbulent time?

TVR I have identified five different types of responsibilities for each HR professional;

1. Responsibility to self: Keep safe, follow all that is required to be followed as per government and local bodies that deal with health and administration; identify your own areas of interest and expose yourself to new activities to bring out the hitherto undiscovered and unutilised talent in yourself. Learn new things and practice all HRD you are trying to teach others for yourself while at home or working in community. Reflect and rejuvenate your self for a new HR sole or new role in society as Human being.

2. Responsibility to family: Take care of your family, elderly parents, your own children, spouse, and others. Be warm and affectionate. Provide emotional and other forms of support. Make sure they face it bravely and without panic. Help children to use time productively to learn about nature, world, life, geography, stories, calamities and how people survived etc. Become a well knit family to understand differences and appreciate diversity than get into conflicts. Tolerance, faith, optimism, compassion, humility and care for nature to become part of family values.

3. Responsibility to Employees: Connect and re-connect with them. Keep in touch. Educate them. Share authentic information. Find out vulnerable (economically and in other ways) groups among your employees and ensure that they are provided all support for food, health care, emotional assurance, and other facilities for healthy living in crisis times. Work with your top management to chalk out employee engagement and health and happiness interventions at this critical stage. Provide infrastructure support where you can and where necessary (food, provisions and communication) Disseminate information about the arrangements. Make it a point to contact a few every day and divide the work among all HR team. Generate other forms of connecting with them and keeping their morale high. Disseminate good practices of work from home. Create and send out assuring and reassuring videos from the top management and leaders from other places. Involve employees and treat them as new possibilities. They may have a lot of ideas.

4. Responsibility to Organization: Understand the business implications of the pandemic. Prepare for a little long drawn tough time ahead. Join the top team to understand and impress of them the need for focus on people. Let them be not more sources of frustration and panic among already panic stricken employees. Put them in touch with experiences from other organisations and countries and how they are tackling the human side and business side of the crisis. Involve others to plan and think about the future strategies (commercial and human) and plans to move from slow down to speed up as and when it happens. Work for CSR activities in pandemic times.

5. Responsibility to Society and Nation: Educate. Follow all the discipline and norms set by government. Contribute your share for the welfare of the poor and those who are badly affected by the Pandemic.  Create mechanism to reach out to the poor and vulnerable in your capacity. Best time to have Individual Social responsibility (ISR). Respect for nature is the biggest lesson for all humans who think they are supreme. If Humans are great possibilities, nature is even a greater possibility and it can inflict many things on humans if they don't care for it.

What initiatives should HR take in long term to address and handle such situation in future?

TVR Create functional task forces to come up with ideas for long duration slow down, immediate speed up and the role of all departments. Focus on cost cuts without retrenchments and distribution of resources to take care of the low paid employees. Come up with plans to manage the financial and commercial parts of business.

What can be the learning for HR and business world out of the pandemic?

TVR It brings out the need and opportunity for HR to establish itself like the medical profession in service of the human beings and also care for nature through Human beings.