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What human-centric companies prescribe for a post-Covid world

What human-centric companies prescribe for a post-Covid world
By Avik Chanda & Shubhabrata Roy

As the nation steps into Lockdown 4.0, even a bumper Rs 20 lakh crore relief package has not been able to hide the severely adverse, across-the-board economic impact of the pandemic. For large corporates as well as MSMEs, one of the major challenges is the job insecurity faced by employees, exacerbated by new labour laws invoked across states, giving employers a free hand to ‘hire and fire’. In spite of which, a number of niche companies whose core business comprises working with professionals at various levels, are still soldiering on, reorienting themselves for success in a post-Covid world. From placement agencies to institutes providing online training, coaching and counselling, curating events for corporate speakers and industry experts, and offering the full breadth of HR transformation consulting, their business offerings cover a range of services.

As part of a new, ongoing Positive Psychology-based study being conducted by NUVAH ELINT LLP and BIASINC, a number of stakeholders in this segment were surveyed and interviewed, to glean insights across three major dimensions.

Skills for the future: The stakeholders were asked to choose from and rank what they felt were the top skills needed in a post-Covid world, from a set of 24 signature strengths. The responses showed that industry, domain and technical expertise, which have thus far been the major determinants in all decisions around hiring and career progression, have now become a given. And the attributes that have for so long been relegated to the amorphous category of ‘soft skills’, such as love of learning, perseverance, openness and curiosity are finally being featured centre-stage.

Interestingly, gratitude was rated as the top skill for certain respondents. According to Manisha Srivastava, CEO of Image Shoppe, which focuses on image consulting for professionals: “Gratitude has to become a permanent fixture in our collective value system. Presently, there’s enough cause for negativity, dejection, and panic. In my conversations with clients, when I steer the discussion towards gratitude, counting one’s blessings amidst all the turmoil and uncertainty, the entire mood changes. And the client is put in a more positive frame of mind. Gratitude is one of the things that will see us through this storm caused by the pandemic.”

Hope and positivity are likewise high on the list. “At a time of unprecedented crisis, hope and positivity are critical to be able to run businesses.“ – says Deepak Rathi, former ABC Consultants CFO and Founder of HeadSpace, a startup in the recruitment and HR consulting domain. “Underlying positivity in a ‘work from home’s scenario – is the element of trust. As lockdown restricts begin to be relaxed, employers will be faced with a trade-off. Should they insist on the maximum legally permitted number of employees to work from office, indirectly increasing the risk of secondary infection to elderly dependents at home – or put in the infrastructure and technical safeguards needed to support seamless remote working? In such a situation, positivity and trust can make all the difference.”

Employer-employee expectations: In this component of the study, stakeholders to state what they felt were the top expectations of employees from their bosses – and vice versa – in a post-Covid paradigm. For many of the respondents, the same set of expectations are repeated across both employers and employees, underscoring the need for reciprocity between the two groups.

Transparency was one such expectation that stands out. “In a pre-COVID, business-as-usual scenario”, said Gaurav Agarwal, Founder-CEO of CoFounders Planet – specializing in CXO hiring and helping startups get the right founding team in place, “transparency is often treated as secondary. But in the current ecosystem, with wage cuts and retrenchment looming constantly, it’s imperative that employers are candid with their teams about challenges being faced by their businesses, the financial impact thereof, and the decisions that need to be taken, to survive the crisis. Leaders have to swiftly adopt an accessible, open-door policy towards personnel. Employees in turn would need to be able to approach their bosses, to discuss their concerns.”

Sanjeev Roy, whose company Bullzi-Inc, aims to make organizations and their leaders live a larger purpose, concurs fully on transparency and trust. “Both of these,” he adds, “should be engendered through authenticity, which begins with oneself. If a leader is not comfortable with himself, it’ll be difficult for him to win the trust of his team. The ‘work-from-home’ model may continue to be the norm well into the future. But this causes problems for those leaders for whom leadership is equated with the level of supervision they can effect – for these leaders, a ‘work from home’ scenario renders their style of operating dysfunctional. This is where authenticity plays a big role – being aware of one’s behaviour and its intrinsic motivations.”

Loyalty featured equally strong among respondents, in this context. “Loyalty is a two-way street”, opined Deepshikha Anand, CEO-Founder of SpeakIn, a forum that curates bespoke talks and workshops by industry experts and thought leaders, for corporates. “But recently, for both employees and employers, this has been largely eroded. You see this reflected in the average tenure of professionals in any company, which is only around a year, if not less. In a scenario where job cuts far outstretch market opportunities, employees may be compelled to remain longer in their present jobs. Loyalty, however, is not something that can be forced upon people. It’s therefore incumbent upon both employers and employees to arrive at and implement means of fostering greater mutual loyalty. Training will be an important part of this mechanism – its importance will actually increase, in a post-Covid world.”

Mindset matters: In this part of the study, stakeholders were asked to deliberate on what they felt would be the required mindset for the workforce of the future. They were asked to score the importance of three specific constituents – self-esteem, resilience and grit, on a scale of 1 to 10. The scores across all three elements were high. Self-esteem received an average score of 8.8, while grit ranked higher, at a mean score of 9.2. Resilience topped the list, with an average score of 9.4, with 60 percent of the respondents scoring it at a perfect 10.

The responses highlight the importance of attributes such as perseverance, grit and resilience for human centric firms. Interestingly on the other hand, creativity, imagination, or appreciation of aesthetics and beauty – which characterize talent – didn’t feature in the top 3 skills for the future. This in turn underscores something that Positive Psychologists such as Angela Duckworth have long advocated: “As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”


Avik Chanda is CEO-Founder of NUVAH ELINT LLP, also a business advisor, corporate speaker, bestselling author and columnist. Shubhabrata Roy is CEO-Founder of BIASINC, Board Member at NUVAH ELINT LLP.
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