On the occasion of International Human Resources Day, we spoke to many HR leaders about their learnings from the pandemic in the last 1.5 years. Here are some insights from the leading HR professionals of India Inc.
What is the one lesson you learnt as an HR leader in the last 1.5 years, since the pandemic struck?
Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP, Head – HR (Global) and Corporate Quality, CSS Corp
“The primary thing that the HR function witnessed and learned is the liberation from the mindset that work can be accomplished when we are co-located (or physically in the office). Physical needs (Meeting rooms, logistics, time conflicts) have melted away with a positive acceptance of collaborative tools (Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting, and many more). Also, the onslaught of the variants and waves have made even the most brave-hearted to be mentally fragile. An immense amount of support and efforts have to be made for positivity to flow continuously like oxygen.”
Akash Sangole, Head of Human Resource and General Administration, Panasonic Life Solutions India Pvt. Ltd.
“The pandemic has taught us many lessons. As organizations rallied to respond to the crisis, the biggest challenge for the HR function was how to keep the workforce safe, motivated & engaged. As an HR function, we could manage the situation by being authentic, empathetic, and resilient. The major takeaway for me was to be agile/quick and being resilient in every approach.”
Annoora Singh, Head – HR, Training and Admin, Organic India
“COVID-19 pandemic presented an unrivaled situation all over the world and there is no individual or organization that was not impacted in some or the other way. Employees who had never worked remotely found themselves working from home for the first time and this has urged HR function to re-think their strategy and plans.With WFH, the role of HR has become more critical than ever before as they now are essentially the bridge between the leadership teams and employees till the grass-roots level and ensure that all employees continue to work towards a common goal and move in the same direction.”
Arun Dinakar Rao, Chief People Officer, Birlasoft
“If there is one lesson I have learned in these 18 months, it is that “We should never forget our basics”. It has proven that empathy and care go a long way in dealing with challenges than what they were credited for. It has proven that adversity brings out the true character/resilience among people and that necessity is truly the mother of innovation. The pandemic has forced organizations to adopt and accelerate their digital journeys, dynamically altering the way organizations look at their technology roadmap and has shown a new way of building and engaging with ‘work-from-anywhere teams.”
Ashish Mittal, Head of People Function, Aviva India
“We witnessed a dramatic shift in the work culture and recognized early that we didn’t have all the answers. We realized that “learning as we go” was the best strategy of all. The one lesson that I have learned as a leader is to create a work culture that is humanitarian in approach. As leaders of a people-centric organization, we have built a strong foundation with empathy, humility, and strong bonds with our people.”
Bernard Martyris, Global Chief of Human Resources, VFS Global
“Forming deep and meaningful human connections with employees has become even more critical to companies and business leaders in these turbulent times. For me, the COVID-19 pandemic required working closely with remotely connected teams to ensure agility and address the 360-degree requirements of employees and equip them to work through such a crisis via an enhanced focus on Learning and Development. It was also imperative to care for mental and physical well-being through meaningful and empathetic two-way communication.”
Jayashubha K, Chief People Officer, TVS Credit Services Limited
“The pandemic has been a learning curve that has taught me to be adaptive and flexible in order to survive and succeed in this COVID era. As an HR leader for a large organization, the pandemic pushed us to break through all stereotypes. It encouraged us to move from traditional to remote working style, broaden our network, learn and relearn and find new ways to reconnect with people around us.”
Pavitra Singh, CHRO, PepsiCo India
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many valuable lessons and my biggest one has been to lead with compassion. I realized that softer skills of empathy, compassion, and resilience are key differentiators in these challenging times. We, as leaders, need to be the torchbearers of hope and lead with our hearts. We have to be more personal in our approach and find ways to connect in the new normal as there are no face-to-face interactions currently. Leaders should also ensure high-quality interactions and bring energy to every meeting.”