Today we are geared up for a discussion on how learning has been evolving especially during this new normal. We have a diverse panel and participants from across the industry to share their perspectives

Moderator

Dr. AK Balyan

Dr. AK Balyan

Former CEO & MD – LNG Petronet

Our Speakers

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Director HR – Indian Oil Corporation Limited

Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Founder & CEO – ZingHR

Mr. VK Singh

Mr. VK Singh

Director (Personnel) – Power Grid Corp. of India Limited


Dr. AK Balyan

Dr. AK Balyan

Director HR – Indian Oil Corporation Limited

Dr. AK Balyan set the context about the webinar as to discuss the various challenges and HR issues that are being faced by the organizations, and seek expert opinion from the panel.

We are all aware that this is an unprecedented type of situation created by a virus. It impacted almost 150 countries worldwide and developed countries were hit more. Practically, the business activities have come to a halt and we are in for a recession. Such extraordinary situations call for extraordinary efforts and initiatives. There is uncertainty about how long the impact of Covid will last. We can only make some assessments; what and how much is the impact is only based on our assumptions. We feel that the initiatives taken by the Government, many organizations, major NGOs perhaps it might be a U shaped recovery. The focus of business has come to survival and sustainability. Apart from that there are large efforts on how do you maintain your assets and continue working on them and prevent your assets from turning into non performing assets. Many sectors like hospitality, mobility and aviation are badly impacted. So we need to understand the challenges and the initiatives that are being taken by the businesses to keep the continuity on.

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Director HR – Indian Oil Corporation Limited

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra added to this yes, this is an unprecedented situation and it definitely requires an unprecedented response from all of us; individually and professionally. This is the time where everybody is tested whether we survive or perish. He quoted Paul Romer here, ‘A crisis is a very terrible thing to waste’. We need to convert this into an opportunity. As Mr. Balyan rightly said, many industries are impacted and even start-ups are facing problems with funding. In India itself, many start-ups are on the verge of shutdown. At the same time, we need to respond well to this crisis and turn it into an opportunity.  This is the time for us to relook at the 3 main areas of HR i.e. Work, Workplace and Workforce.  HR Technology is redefining work.

Mr. VK Singh

Mr. VK Singh

Director (Personnel) – Power Grid Corp. of India Limited

Mr. VK Singh expanded the topic and mentioned that Mr. Balyan and Mr. Mohapatra has already given us an overview of how this situation has impacted us externally as well as internally. HR as the field is primarily impacted. It’s physical, emotional and operational. It’s very important to rethink all policies, procedures in the system. We cannot wait for the things to get easy; we need to respond right now. There is one emotion which encompasses all others, and thinking is built around that. So this crisis should not go waste, whatever we have learnt, we should follow it. As per his opinion right now, great places are those that are safe places. So where emotional and physical threats are concerned, we need to create safe workplaces. It’s now survival of the safest.

Prasad Rajappan

Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Founder & CEO – ZingHR

Mr. Prasad Rajappan started on a lighter note, Corona has brought changes like, converting our work life balance to video call – voice call balance, planning weekends to which day of the week it is. Life has become very dynamic. The major concerns that can be observed in both private and public sectors are safety, response process to this unknown enemy corona, protection of employees and their families. Another concern has been the customer retention and growth, especially in the private sector. People are also worried about business continuity, up skilling and ensuring transparency. For a finance perspective, everyone is looking at converting the fixed costs to variable costs.

Productivity needs to be relooked as value added and essential activities that deliver outcomes and not only activities. We need to focus on Outcomation. Covid has enacted as a great leveler and brought everyone at the starting point. This is an equal opportunity for everyone, for only agile and adaptive minds will be able to grab it.  Major challenges today are predictability of what will happen and constraints in our mind.

India has this opportunity to redraw its economy; the question is it’s up to us to decide what we want to do. As our contribution, we have opened our HR Tech Products  in the market for free of cost.

Questions

We know that you belong to a fortune 500 company; you have the vast presence, and are the biggest refiner and marketer of petrochemicals in the country. With such a network and also falling under essential services, how have you ensured smooth operations? Can you please share how you are managing your workforce; both regular employees and secondary? What were the essential steps in your opinion, which helped you manage this?

-Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra


Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra
Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Yes we are spread all over. When you have such a large organization with almost 33000 employees, more than 4.5 L secondary workforce spread across all over, it is difficult. We consider our frontline workers, delivery staff the Covid warriors. Everyday our delivery staff is reaching different 30 – 40 houses. In a month or so they are connecting with 1000 of houses. So that becomes a huge challenge.

We focused on 3 fundamentals, which we thought were essential:

We gave only authenticated information and guidance to our teams. We had a hyper committee which was constituted, and we have been meeting regularly since the last 50-60 days. We also decided to take out advisories which would be sent out to all the stakeholders, and they comprise all the guidelines.

Connecting with people was another element. It makes more impact when you connect with your people in adversities.

Keeping people engaged and motivated. We have 60% of our people working from refineries or pipelines or supply locations. Another 40% of our employees work from administrative offices. It was essential to keep both these groups engaged and motivated.

In his opinion five learning’s will be very important for us to take it forward:

Flexibility, Adaptability , Agility , Resilient, Empathy

Have you included the Covid information in your e-learning program? Also many of your outlets are not owned by you, but are licensees. You think there was any difference in productivity or way of working?
-Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra
Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

We have almost 27000 retail outlets as of now, out of which around 170 are the ones where we operate; the rest are franchises operated by dealers. There has been no difference in productivity, in fact in many places, the delivery and customer teams of the dealers have responded extremely well to this situation. We have supported each of them by offering a 5L ex gratia and have covered them under medical insurance.

Are you planning to implement any new initiatives post Covid?
-Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra
Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Going by the learning, a lot of new activities have now been undertaken. We have realized that we can work from home. Also we are realizing maybe our work assignments need to be more developed. We had developed technical competencies for each role on paper. This crisis gave us an opportunity to take that forward. We are planning as to how we can align our customers with the internal stakeholders at any point of time.

Your organization is very agile, and has been able to quickly respond to the needs of the present times. How have you been able to do that? Do you have other locations from where the team is working or is it only Mumbai office? What has been the work environment?
Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Prasad Rajappan
Mr. Prasad Rajappan

We have our offices in all the major cities in India as well as in Singapore. All of a sudden there was this realization, that HR Tech solutions for employees is an essential service. Earlier customer requirements were more inclined towards controlling the work of employees, and in no time this perspective shifted to care and concern. So the tools were the same, but requirements changed. For instance, many organizations wanted to check if their teams were safe and doing well in this crisis. Going by this demand, our team worked relentlessly to get a survey tool in place, which can be used to reach out to people on both, smartphones as well as via SMS.

The deployments have been huge. People are looking out for HR Software with facial recognition technology without having to invest in a recognition device. This led us to develop a mobile based facial recognition with Artificial Intelligence. There is also a surge in demand for chatbots and multilingual solutions. Fortunately, all our solutions come in all 26 local languages. This has helped us in reaching out to diverse people.

Another thing I observed in corporate India is; everyone started empathizing. Another phenomenon is the employees started reciprocating, which is very good for the economy. They started thinking of the company first, some employees are ready to leave their leave balances, and some are ready to leave their incentives. People have realized that this is a global crisis.

So, are there any products that were developed in these 2.5 months and are ready to be procured by others? Also it was expected that certain sectors of ITES would do well, so is it alright to say that the business of ZingHR has increased?
Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Prasad Rajappan
Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Absolutely! We had most of the HR Tech modules ready before, but the demand has increased now. The activity and engagements have become 200%, and we are hiring more people as well as collaborating with partners.

How do you take care of the customers and stakeholders who do not have smartphones?
Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Prasad Rajappan
Mr. Prasad Rajappan

We do have many SMS solutions, as well as tracking solutions for non smartphones via tower triangulation. I have companies who are worried about their employees who have moved to their native, and they want to track them from a concern perspective. So we have SMS solutions using which it can be tracked in which region.

What would be your one suggestion to the industry, particularly to those who are badly impacted?
Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Prasad Rajappan
Mr. Prasad Rajappan

We have been trying to reach out to the Arogya Sethu team, to see if we can integrate our solution with them. Around 2.5 CR people are using it, so we can integrate with them and try and keep people safe. So like we have the best HR solution with a mobile application , where you can check from your phone, how far you’re from Red Zone. This is a national movement, so we are checking the feasibility of linking it with Arogya Sethu and opening it free nation-wide.

Mr. Singh you come from one of the biggest power transmission companies in the country and you are also part of the essential services. You have power lines going to the rural areas and projects which employ primary as well as secondary workforce. What all was unusual that you had to cope during this time?  Did you have to set instructions for not taking up field jobs? Did you practice any different way of working, or was it usual business? What was different in the last 2-3 months?
Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. VK Singh

Mr. VK Singh
Mr. VK Singh

It’s a beautiful experimentation; the moment the country was stuck up with Covid. But we had planned it much ahead as we have global presence in around 20 countries, so we knew what was coming. We had all the Business Continuity Plans in place for all the departments. And as for the migrant laborers, at the time when Covid struck, we had 35000 CR of work in hand, and the construction was on at about 150 odd locations across India. As soon as lockdown was declared, we ensured all our laborers were taken care of. We started providing them food, ensured better living conditions for them by acquiring a high degree of sanitization and retained them. They are all migrant laborers and we could retain more than 60% of them. When the lockdown was relaxed, we re-started our constructions. As far as agency laborers were concerned, like security and sanitization, we took them in-house. We recognized they are our frontline workforce and retained them. We gave them INR 250 per day, when most of the organizations were cutting them.

Power is a very essential commodity and the show must go on. So in the operation area, nothing was impacted and we also had a backup plan in place for each station. An advanced preparation was very useful to us. Also being part of disaster management, we have handled multiple disasters like earthquakes, floods in Srinagar, recent Amphan in Odisha, so we knew how to handle the crisis.

You had many new practices put in place, so do you think your HR practices will be updated to the new way of working?
Question from Dr. Balyan to Mr. VK Singh

Mr. VK Singh
Mr. VK Singh

We decided to change the entire workplace practices due to Covid. It made it essential to revisit all the processes, policies, systems and we had to make them fit to the people. As for the HR perspective, you need to be adjustable, flexible and you need to redefine the policies. Safety was our biggest priority. We also started tele-medicines, and for the ease of payment allowed our workforce to send scanned copies of bills from any part of the country. We went full throttle in the HR team, even with regards to promotions. We kept exploring multiple ways of keeping employees engaged.

Innovation is the key. In some of our sub-stations, our people invented their own kind of sanitization machine. From CSR perspective, we routed almost 200 CR in PM cares fund, and around 30 CR in migrant, construction and agency laborer.

Another learning was, we already had a calendar in place and decided to go ahead with it, without any changes to the operations and training programs. Also since lots of people are working from home, we started with multiple learning initiatives, and are rolling out programs starting with morning meditation, yoga to hard core company programs. Since we are located in many remote locations, communication is the key for us, and as HR it’s very important to create a 2 way communication system.

How has your top management worked differently in the 3 months of the crisis period?
Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. VK Singh

Mr. VK Singh
Mr. VK Singh

As the country was preparing to work from home, we decided that the board members will continue to work. We had board meetings held on virtual platforms, to discuss various issues. We had to ensure safety along with 24*7 operations. We did everything possible to make it a safe workplace, and provided relaxation in terms of policies. Also when people know you care for them, things fall in place.

Communicating in a timely, precise and transparent way is essential. You need to communicate the change in various roles as well as remove misinformation effectively. Prepare the employees mentally to take up additional responsibilities. Engaged employees are the best assets.

Dr. AK Balyan
Dr. AK Balyan

Emphasised that If you communicate transparently with your employees and put forward the business uncertainty situation, then many of them would understand the problems better.

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra
Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Agreed with Dr. Balyan, everything can happen if you discuss it with people. Everyone needs to realize this situation will redefine the way in which we work. Agility and adaptability are crucial for our survival.

Dr. AK Balyan
Dr. AK Balyan

Justified one of the questions asked by the audience that Work from Home is a preferred option for women. He mentioned that women in his family effectively work from home as well as managing other things at home. Women are better managers in terms of time management and multi-skilling.

Prasad Rajappan
Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Added to this on a lighter note, it’s a good opportunity to make your spouse multi-skilled. On a serious note, earlier Work from Home was only for the IT sector. But now it’s essential and imperative to come up with Work from Home guidelines.

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra
Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Made a valid point here that the current Work from Home experience has been bad. But this work is not the regular Work from Home that should happen in future. Female employees are facing multiple issues, and we are under the assumptions that since people are working from home, it implies they are available 24*7. But the future will change as it has to be redefined. There has to be a clear cut balance between work and family life.

Dr. AK Balyan
Dr. AK Balyan

Mentioned that From an HR perspective, the main points are: How do you deal with uncertainty? Do you have people that are comfortable to work in uncertainty? How do you convert people to manage the situation with ease? What changes are happening? Covid has hassled the process so fast that everyone is taken aback. But changes are happening and how do you predict what will happen? We need people who can help us with predictability, and larger organizations have come up with such positions.

Prasad Rajappan
Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Made an analogy. It’s like there’s a huge building that goes haywire due to an earthquake. You can either tinkle with it or build a new one, and put in only those things which are essential; because in your old house there would have been many things which you were not using. So HR now has the option to restructure things differently. Like we at ZingHR use the word Outcomation; do only what is going to give you business outcomes for organizations as well as employees.

How has your top management worked differently in the 3 months of the crisis period?
Question from Dr. AK Balyan to Mr. VK Singh

Mr. VK Singh
Mr. VK Singh

As the country was preparing to work from home, we decided that the board members will continue to work. We had board meetings held on virtual platforms, to discuss various issues. We had to ensure safety along with 24*7 operations. We did everything possible to make it a safe workplace, and provided relaxation in terms of policies. Also when people know you care for them, things fall in place.

Communicating in a timely, precise and transparent way is essential. You need to communicate the change in various roles as well as remove misinformation effectively. Prepare the employees mentally to take up additional responsibilities. Engaged employees are the best assets.

Dr. AK Balyan
Dr. AK Balyan

Emphasised that If you communicate transparently with your employees and put forward the business uncertainty situation, then many of them would understand the problems better.

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra
Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Agreed with Dr. Balyan, everything can happen if you discuss it with people. Everyone needs to realize this situation will redefine the way in which we work. Agility and adaptability are crucial for our survival.

Dr. AK Balyan
Dr. AK Balyan

justified one of the questions asked by the audience that Work from Home is a preferred option for women. He mentioned that women in his family effectively work from home as well as managing other things at home. Women are better managers in terms of time management and multi-skilling.

Prasad Rajappan
Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Added to this on a lighter note, it’s a good opportunity to make your spouse multi-skilled. On a serious note, earlier Work from Home was only for the IT sector. But now it’s essential and imperative to come up with Work from Home guidelines.

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra
Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

Made a valid point here that the current Work from Home experience has been bad. But this work is not the regular Work from Home that should happen in future. Female employees are facing multiple issues, and we are under the assumptions that since people are working from home, it implies they are available 24*7. But the future will change as it has to be redefined. There has to be a clear cut balance between work and family life.

Dr. AK Balyan
Dr. AK Balyan

Mentioned that From an HR perspective, the main points are: How do you deal with uncertainty? Do you have people that are comfortable to work in uncertainty? How do you convert people to manage the situation with ease? What changes are happening? Covid has hassled the process so fast that everyone is taken aback. But changes are happening and how do you predict what will happen? We need people who can help us with predictability, and larger organizations have come up with such positions.

Prasad Rajappan
Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Made an analogy. It’s like there’s a huge building that goes haywire due to an earthquake. You can either tinkle with it or build a new one, and put in only those things which are essential; because in your old house there would have been many things which you were not using. So HR now has the option to restructure things differently. Like we at ZingHR use the word Outcomation; do only what is going to give you business outcomes for organizations as well as employees.

Dr. AK Balyan mentioned his perspective on How the Role of HR is going to change post COVID?

Dr. AK Balyan
Dr. AK Balyan

What we have learnt from Covid is, how do you make your team adapt to a new way of working? How quick is your team to adapt to these changes? How comfortable are you with these changes? People do get perturbed with changes, especially if they have been following a particular work style for more than 10 years. How do you manage these changes? Leadership crisis is different. We need leaders at all levels, who can work effectively in crisis.

Prasad Rajappan
Mr. Prasad Rajappan

Added a valid point that the best service HR can do is to make HR a trait niche manager and not keep it as a department. If HR can identify their purpose in the business; their job is done.

Covid-19 has had a negative effect not only on the economy but almost all the industries and households. Yes, there will be post Covid-19 effects but it is not something we cannot fight. With the right strategy and right state of mind, we can survive the effects and come out stronger.

ZingHR has developed resources to help you through these challenging times. Click here to know our most sought after Work From Home offerings to help you cross this hurdle.

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