Here’s how companies are trying to keep employee morale up amid COVID-19 pandemic

Just as India was limping back to normalcy after the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020, we were hit by a second, more severe wave in 2021 that not only saw people scrambling for beds and oxygen, but also recorded more deaths.

India’s workforce was forced to remain indoors yet again, and prolonged work from home that has blurred the lines between personal and professional lives has led to increased burnout and exhaustion.
However, companies across industries have started recognising the same, looking at unique ways that can help employees cope with stress, distress and burnout.

Taking time off

Dating app Bumble, for instance, recently announced that all employees – in India and across the globe – will have a paid, fully offline one-week vacation in June. “Like everyone, our global team has had a very challenging time during this pandemic. We wanted to give our teams around the world an opportunity to shut off and focus on themselves for a week,” a Bumble spokesperson said.
Similarly, Cosmetics and personal care company L’Oréal India is offering employees a ‘Healing Day’ off, an extended weekend for self-care, as well as a ‘Healing Week’, which the company said is designed to lift employee spirits and to provide constructive support on coping in difficult times through various learning programmes.

Several companies have also announced an unlimited leave policy. Khatabook has an unlimited leave policy, which CEO & co-founder Ravish Naresh said gives employees the mindspace to focus completely on the recovery of health of their loved ones and themselves.
Other companies such as OYO, Myntra (Unlimited Wellness Leaves) and Grant Thorton too have introduced unlimited leave policies.

Engaging employees

To ensure employees are not blurring lines between their professional and personal lives, mattress maker Duroflex has put in place a rule no work messages are to be sent before 9 am and after 9 pm. This is in addition to organising fun contests, talent shows, among others.
“Our meetings start with ‘What’s the good news?’ just to boost morale and team spirit. Workshops for yoga, etc. are organized during working hours so that employees take a break from work and stretch a little,” Ritu Moitra, Chief Human Resources Officer, Duroflex said.
Godrej & Boyce launched a company-wide COVID Support Group under the initiative called #TogetherWeCan where the company has been organising mental and physical wellbeing workshops for employees. Under the initiative, it also conducts activities such as Yoga Day session, Family Day, cooking workshops, window photography contests and more.

Real estate developer Embassy Group has launched the ‘Embassy cares wellness portal’, where the company engages with employees on wellness with puzzles, trivia, online fitness sessions, among others. This is in addition to the COVID-19 related support, online doctor and nutrition consultation and pharmacy at discounted prices that the portal offers.

“We also introduced an e-learning portal for all employees, initiating a ‘Learn, Grow and Connect’ series that provided master skills with in-depth learning. The monthly challenge on e-learning has enabled employees with key skills on cultivating joy, mindful moments, empowering women along with others. There is constant communication with individual teams at the group level, by connecting and highlighting individual efforts with all team members as regularly as possible,” Maria Rajesh, CHRO, Embassy Group said.

The Souled Store has been organizing several fun and engagement sessions like a stand-up act by a comedian, a therapeutic art session, a magic show event as well. This is in addition to its employee assistance programmes designed to drive home the importance of attending to mental health and arranged for professional counselling sessions through a confidential helpline number.

Seniority, a company that runs a portal for the elderly, too has been organising interactive events like Antakshari, Tambola, Seniority Premier League, Seniority Talent Hunt, etc. to keep employees motivated.

“Besides, we have collaborated with Juno Clinic, Cleartax, Marsh etc. to conduct various online webinars and industry interaction programmes covering various aspects of physical, mental and financial wellness for our employees,” Tapan Mishra, Founder – Seniority and Evergreen Club said.

Ensuring Mental wellbeing
Most companies have also started offering online counselling sessions for employees to be able to talk about and cope with the pandemic situation.

Retail chain METRO Cash and Carry India organises yoga sessions and pep talk sessions from the top management from time to time in addition to regular webinars on physical & mental health wellbeing.
At Budget airline AIR ASIA, the Chief Medical Officer has regular interactions with employees to keep them updated with essential care tips. The company also said that it has manager-lead processes to ensure employees have the right amount of breaks, activities, learning and wellness in place.

“Our much-awaited Coffee with CEO sessions involve heart-to-heart conversations, alongside our daily virtual meets, peer-to-peer counselling, focused group discussions with HR teams and live online sessions which strive to create open and safe spaces for communication and engagement,” Anjali Chatterjee, Head – People and Culture, AirAsia India said.
IT services company CSS Corp has in place a ‘CHEER framework’, developed for COVID times to help drive empathetic employee engagement and positivity “‘C’ stands for Communicating with employees; ‘H’ for Highlighting their accomplishments; ‘E’ for Energising them; ‘E’ for Engaging with them; and ‘R’ for Recognising and Rewarding them,” the company said.
In addition to this, the company also has initiatives in place to offer 247 counselling line supporting employees’ emotional and mental health.

Bharat Bhatia, Vice President HR at fine jewellery brand Melorra, said that the company’s HR team ensures that there is an environment where people in Melorra can approach their managers or the HR team in case they are overly stressed without any fear of being judged. Employees are also encouraged to take leaves as and when needed to ensure that they break the routine when needed.
“As the HR team, we try to do activities frequently to enable people to have fun at work and to break the daily routine. We have also launched a 24X7 professional counselling service for all our employees to seek professional help when needed,” Bhatia added.
Healthtech startup HealthCube also has regular discussions on mental and physical wellness between the employees and the HR team.


Mental Health Day 2021: What Tech Leaders Are Saying?

The challenges and trauma associated with Covid-19 have put mental health front-and-center for employers like never before. According to research, 42% of global employees have experienced a decline in mental health since the pandemic began. Mental health no doubt has proved a hot topic across the tech sector, with research conducted by Harvey Nash earlier this year revealing that concerns among tech workers increased by 75% during the pandemic. Symptoms of burnout are also increasing among employees and leaders alike.

Good news is that addressing mental health and well-being in the workplace can truly make a difference to an individual and the collective workforce – helping them determine how to handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Moreover, there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive.

However, there’s still a long way to go! That’s an obvious reason why World Mental Health Day is celebrated every year on October 10. First recognized by the World Federation for Mental Health in 1992, it aims to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and wellbeing, and advocate against social stigma around the subject.

With this in mind, we take a look at how tech companies have been dealing with the matter of mental health, and the challenges that they are looking to overcome.

“Workplace technology and corporate culture are intertwined, and their impact on employee mental health and wellbeing continues to evolve. We, as an organization, have always been mindful of the mental well-being of our employees. Therefore, we have launched a slew of initiatives to leverage technology towards advancing mental health and wellbeing. Our 24/7 employee assistance provides counseling and aid to employees, and HR chatbots automate responses to queries, leading to faster issue resolutions. Additionally, we have been conducting virtual mindfulness sessions and digital detox (digital quarantine) to enable employees to find the right balance amid their hectic schedules. We believe that while the organization could march ahead with lots of accomplishments and milestones, the health and wellbeing of the employees are vital. Technology alone does not help as it cannot replicate the human touch and reassurance, it is important to provide the experience. Sometimes, a simple pat on the back can be good enough to alleviate stress and anxiety. During times of uncertainty, it is crucial to lead with empathy. CSS Corp tracks the health status of employees constantly. Since the onset of the pandemic, I have personally spoken with more than 90% of the Covid-affected employees. This conveyed the support and reassurance to the employees in a direct personal way apart from ensuring a thorough understanding of the ground-level challenges they face. We also aim to proactively neutralize burnout, anxiety, stress, and the problems that emerge from working virtually over an extended time,” – Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and Head – HR (Global) and Head of Corporate Quality, CSS Corp


Mapping Your Digital CX Journey is Like A Road Trip

CXOs are increasingly recognizing that stepping up their digital game would lead to more efficiency, innovation, and customer satisfaction. But the problem is, ‘where does one even begin?’ Experts recommend, it begins by mapping your digital customer experience journey – which is pretty much like a road trip. It helps brands in understanding their customers’ needs and behavior that can help improve the brand’s product or service.

In an exclusive chat with CXOToday, Vivian Gomes, SVP & Head – Marketing & Inside Sales, CSS Corp., discusses why mapping your digital customer journey is becoming more important than ever in the current scenario, the key challenges and opportunities in this space and how brands can develop their customer journey map, going forward.

Why is digital customer experience getting more important given the current business scenario?

Since the onset of the pandemic, the relevance of creating no-touch experiences has become even more apparent. The entire ecosystem today is evolving around virtual operations, especially, in the B2C context. Customers are becoming more empowered and self-service is a rising trend that is seeing applications in many fields as an enabler in facilitating seamless customer engagements. With this changing business landscape, mapping the customer journey becomes critical to creating digital experiences that will differentiate.

How and why is it important to map your digital customer experience journey?

Businesses today are dealing with digitally-savvy, conscious consumers whose purchase priorities and buying behavior have changed. With the digital highway wide open, brands are understanding the importance of using modern, new technologies such as real-time messaging tools, AI, automation, chatbots, and self-service among others to remove friction from customer interactions. Mapping the digital customer journey becomes imperative to ensure that customers receive a seamless experience and any impediments along the journey are removed.

What are the biggest obstacles companies are facing around digital customer experience?

Digital customer experience is a goal that is easier said than achieved. The key to providing best-in-class CX is personalization, which relies on gathering intelligence about the customer context. This calls for smooth and efficient data capture mechanisms and analytics-led decision making. With so much dark data that is not being used and functions operating in silos, organisations are still grappling with data ecosystems that are yet to mature. Also, many companies are caught in the web of technical debt which prevents them from creating agile infrastructure ecosystems needed to engage today’s consumers effectively. Finally, structuring CX calls for a cultural and mindset shift in the organization. All this takes time as there is an inertia that impedes progress.

What are your recommendations to CXOs looking at designing their CX strategy?

If we look at the evolving technology landscape, cloud technology, data analytics, AI, automation, and other next-gen technology enablers, which were considered cutting-edge before, have become table-stakes today. It is not only important to create a holistic plan to weave in these technologies into the overall strategy, but also to create champion change agents who will be willing to adapt to change and drive it at the grassroots levels. It is also important to build the right digital infrastructure that can support omnichannel experiences.  Lastly, mapping the customer journey to create frictionless and empathetic brand experiences should be the way forward for companies.

It’s important to be mindful of trends in the digital customer experience space so that CXOs can quickly adapt their strategy to meet the latest industry insights and create an effective customer experience. In this video, Gomes talks about the recent trends in the digital customer experience space.

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Organisations lending helping hands towards employees amid pandemic

Amid the present Covid-led disruptions, employees look up to their leaders and HR for guidance on how to navigate through this new normal.

Ensuring employees’ wellbeing and safety has become the norm for almost every organisation. ETHRWorld interacted with several industry leaders to find out how they are standing together with their employees amid the challenging times.

Brillio employees who have contracted Covid can avail home care services from medical establishments arranged by the company. Besides, the company has rolled out vaccination drives for its employees and their families and is helping them to book hospital beds, oxygen cylinders or any kind of help related to Covid-19. The company has also introduced a financial loan and Corona Kavach Policy to alleviate the financial burden.

Aftab Ullah, Chief Operating and Delivery Officer, Brillio, said, “The company’s culture is strongly driven by our ‘We Care’ philosophy. Built on that, we have implemented the ‘We Care’ framework for Covid-19.”

The company has been providing facilities, including 24/7 medical emergency support in partnership with International SOS, and access to MediBuddy to help the employees with medical insurance, and telemedical services.

CSS Corp

CSS Corp has been tracking the health status of its employees and has stepped in to provide the required support. The company has introduced a doctor-on-call helpline that focuses on getting the right aid for the employees and their family members.

The company is also offering home diagnostics options and is currently in talks with medical institutes for collaboration. Considering the health challenges, financial hardship, social strain, and access to treatments, the HR teams are in constant touch with the employees to build psychological morale and extend support to access quality and affordable healthcare.

Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, Senior Vice President and Head – HR (Global) and Corporate Quality, CSS Corp, said, “Our employee assistance programmes, and dedicated 24/7 counselling line supporting the employees’ emotional and mental health have been extensively leveraged.”

Visvanathan further mentioned that the company has introduced the SAFE (Support, Awareness, Facilitation, Emergency) framework for the employees who have contracted Covid-19 infection. The framework includes connecting with the affected employees by the HR Team and facilitating support till recovery, awareness through mailers and slogans, facilities like on-call 24/7 medical consultation, and emergency reach out through the Rapid Response team.

DB Schenker

According to DB Schenker, its employees who have contracted the Covid infection can take unlimited Covid leaves to take care of themselves and their families. The company has also rolled out a vaccination drive and is helping the employees with doctor consultation, and arranging medicines, hospital beds, oxygen, ambulances for them.

Vishal Sharma, CEO – Cluster India and Indian Sub-Continent, DB Schenker, said, “We have taken multiple measures to ensure the mental, physical and financial wellness of our employees across the organisation with customised plans and initiatives to address the corporate office staff along with their families.”

Apart from supporting its own employees and their families, DB Schenker is also supporting an NGO in setting up an oxygen plant in a hospital in Delhi, which Sharma believes will assist in increasing the ICU and oxygen beds. The company is also providing logistics services for the Red Cross.


Initiatives By Tech Firms On Employee Mental Health In India

Tech companies have introduced initiatives and implemented programmes to ensure that employees’ mental health is cared for.

COVID-19 has been challenging for almost everyone across the globe. With people being stuck inside the four walls of their houses and remote work becoming a way of life, employees’ mental health has taken a toll, especially for those whose only escape from problematic homes was work. Alternatively, many complained about burnout and long hours at work.

Unfortunately, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted and even halted critical mental health services in up to 93 per cent of countries across the globe at a time when its need was the maximum.

However, mental health goes a long way when it comes to maintaining consistency and productivity at work. In line with this, tech companies have introduced initiatives and implemented programmes to ensure that employees’ mental health is taken care of.

We, at Analytics India Magazine, have curated a list of tech firms in India that have taken initiatives on employee mental wellness.

CSS Corp

CSS Corp has a slew of initiatives to leverage technology towards the advancement of mental well-being. It has round-the-clock employee assistance that provides counselling and aid to its employees. Additionally, the HR chatbots automate responses to questions, accelerating resolutions. The tech company has also been conducting virtual mindfulness sessions and digital detox to enable work-life balance.

Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and Head HR (Global) and Head of Corporate Quality at CSS Corp, said that while the organisation could march ahead with lots of accomplishments and milestones, the health and well-being of employees is absolutely vital.


Rethinking Women in Tech in the Next Normal

The glass ceiling, the broken rung, or whatever name you give it, gender inequality at the workplace continues to be a looming issue. The tech industry too has a long way to go toward achieving equality in the workplace. In fact, at the bigtechs too (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) women make up barely over a third of the workforce.

The divide becomes even more prevalent at the top, where men are 30% more likely to be hired for managerial roles than women. In fact, only 23% of C-suite positions are held by women, with women of color receiving even less recognition, making up just 4% of senior leadership team, according to World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, which noted it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress..

Now that the world has become further disrupted – thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic – and organizations and individuals are geared towards the ‘next normal’, it is even more important to think about the future of work for women in technology. What are the new challenges for women in tech? How are the new generations of women leaders breaking the glass ceiling? And how this entire conversation can change the future of work? With these and many more questions in mind, CXOToday reaches out to men and women leaders in the tech industry who enlighten us about the current scenario and the future of women in technology in the next normal.

“In more ways than one, the pandemic has changed our overall approach towards work and life at large. While the change enabled women to manage their work schedule and simultaneously attend to the needs of their personal life, it has also blurred work-life boundaries with increased responsibilities affecting their wellness.  On the positive side, it has opened up avenues for women joining back from sabbaticals with the benefits provided by companies like limited hour engagement and absence of login/logout compulsions. The technology industry is one of the spaces where a woman can explore a plethora of options like contract/consultant-based jobs to carry on her career journey without much sweat.  It calls for playing the balancing act well with appropriate support systems and mentorship. The tech industry has been increasingly providing opportunities for women to not only enter the industry, but also break the glass ceiling. But ultimately, the onus is on women themselves to make the optimum use of opportunities through constant motivation, continuous upskilling and networking with other leaders to grow in this space.”

 – Kalpana Sudharsan, Senior Director, Corporate Quality at CSS Corp.

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CSS Corp’s service levels improve upto 50%

The approach ‘great customer satisfaction comes with a great employee satisfaction’ spurred the company to develop an in-house innovative solution that took service delivery to the next level.

Be it work from home or from the office, measuring employee productivity, efficiency and satisfaction is a task for any business. Linking client’s growth with employee growth is another uphill task. CSS Corp, however, seems to have all figured it all out.

In conversation with ETCIO, Rahul Joshi, CTO, CSS Corp, provides insights into a home-grown innovative enterprise solution that has helped the company improve its service levels upto 50%.

“We have built an enterprise insight system that we call ‘Coeus’. Coeus is known as the god of intellect. This platform manages the performance of almost 3500 agents and provides visibility into it to not just the ops managers but also the CXOs. We have incorporated more than 25 matrices, deployed over 100 business rules, some customized to certain accounts and some generic. We analyze almost 1 million contacts per month,” Joshi said.

CSS Corp now onboards any new engagement onto this platform as soon as it goes into operations mode. “This has been in place for about 12-15 months now,” he said.

“Coeus has helped us increase productivity levels by 25%. This had the biggest impact on our service delivery which has since gone up to 50%. We realized that customer satisfaction is only going to come with employee satisfaction. So, measuring employee productivity, efficiency and satisfaction was important,” he added.

Joshi believes that the increase in productivity is because of the feedback that the team is able to give on Coeus. An employee is measured against his team, his deliverables, and professional growth.

“An engineer would usually be measured against X and Y’s performance. We don’t do that. Let’s say I am in Team A and this team is supposed to deliver a customer metric at 80%. So, I will be measured against the performance of the team and the customer’s performance. And If I am out of range of the team’s performance either good or bad, it will be flagged and coaching interventions will be automatically created within the training ecosystem,” he explained.

There are various parameters that CSS Corp considers whenever it is giving feedback to employees. The first is the KPIs and a few other skills. For example, for a contact center agent, it depends on his CSAT, his first call resolution, communication skills, the number of training that he has undergone, experience in the team and how well he documents the case. This all helps in creating an agent persona.

On the basis of score, feedback, and persona, the managers can further deploy employees on a project or assignment that aligns with his skills and personality.

Joshi mentioned that these initiatives also helped the company interact with the employees in a meaningful way in a data-driven manner so that they can have distinct conversations.

“We have enough data now within the Coeus platform to predict the performance. So, today I can sit and ask Coeus if I can match up the numbers of June with July, and Coeus will tell me if I will be able to perform and match the numbers. This answer will be provided with 80-85% confidence. For an individual, it can also tell the manager if he or she will be able to make up the KPIs that constitute his or her performance,” he concluded.


Corporates reach out with digital detox, voice-out forums, HR chatbots

Accordingly, corporates close to home are already adapting to the post-pandemic setting and doing their bit to raise awareness and destigmatise mental health issues.

The pandemic and the lockdowns have left a trail of loss and grief and it becomes imperative, now more than ever, to scale up quality mental health services at all levels. This is what countries across the globe felt the need for at the World Health Assembly in May 2021.

Accordingly, corporates close to home are already adapting to the post-pandemic setting and doing their bit to raise awareness and destigmatise mental health issues. Read on…

‘Okay to not be okay’
While employee mental wellbeing was always a topic of discussion, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown brought the issue to the fore with corporates aligning their goals in this direction.

Technology to drive change
While technology has received the short end of the stick, companies across the country have tried to use it to reach out to employees. Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and head – HR (global) and head of corporate quality, CSS Corp, says, “Our 24/7 employee assistance provides counselling and aid to employees, and HR chatbots automate responses to queries, leading to faster issue resolutions. Additionally, we have been conducting virtual mindfulness sessions and digital detox (digital quarantine) to enable employees to find the right balance amid their hectic schedules.”


When leaders Choose To Challenge: International Women’s Day 2021

As a part of the She Matters campaign, we asked leaders to raise their hand high and show that they commit to “choose to challenge” and call out inequality and create an equitable workplace.

In the wake of major social and political changes over the past decades, leading companies are taking steps to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. According to a number of researches, we have found that diverse companies outperform with more homogenous demographics, have lower volatility, a better return on equity, and the higher the degree of creativity and cognitive conflict during the decision-making process.

While organizations around the world understand the need for diversity and are putting efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive work (workplaces), the progress doesn’t seem to be much. Programs designed to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace often fail.

She Matters, an annual campaign by People Matters that aims at enabling organizations to help their women employees to thrive and be empowered at work.

This year’s women’s day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.

As a part of the She Matters campaign, we asked leaders to raise their hand high and show that they commit to “choose to challenge” and call out inequality and create an equitable workplace.

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World Youth Skills Day: How IT upskilling is the need of the hour for professionals

It can be an overwhelming situation for today’s aspiring young technologists. However, it is best to aware of why they should opt for upskilling in the present time.

July 15 is celebrated as World Youth Skills Day to recognise the young talent that are acquiring skills to boost their career. Especially, amidst the pandemic, more and more professionals and youth reskilled and upskilled to rule the market and gain access to the new-age job opportunities that are available.

The young talent is not only upskilling themselves to become better but they are also trying to be a part of the evolution. With this, skilled individuals can find employment opportunities in the market and policymakers.

Commenting on the upskilling for professionals and seekers, Vikrant Gupta, Vice President – HR, Global Markets and DTS, HARMAN said, “Observing the demand-supply gap in skills, several companies have adopted the hire-train-deploy (HTD) model, wherein campus recruits can be trained by subject matter experts in the organizations or even staffing firms on the exact skill requirements before deploying them with the clients or specific products/projects within a company.”

More and more youth are not embracing the path of innovation to come out as the major face with top-notch skills. Especially, amid the pandemic, the youth are actively upskilling to ensure that their future is secure.

Balvinder Khurana, Technology Principal & Global Data Community Lead, Thoughtworks said, “Going remote has presented young technologists with an opportunity for learning unlike before. The avenues range from video conferences to podcasts to virtual tech boot camps to one-on-one conversations with thought leaders – irrespective of physical location. Young technologists are participating in global conferences, opting for online courses and learning from industry experts.”

She named a few in-demand skills that the youth must look for as Data Structure and Algorithms, Data and Analytics, Security, DevOps, and Cloud.

Mahesh Zurale, Senior Managing Director, Lead – Advanced Technology Centers in India (ATCI), Accenture said, “The most important skill that technology professionals need today is the ability to continuously learn and adapt. A continuous learning mindset and ongoing investments is required to build technical and functional skills. Additionally, one should focus on developing skills such as intellectual curiosity, empathy, creativity and an innovation mindset that will be key to meet future role requirements.”


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