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Lockdown, Unlock Phases Paving New Ways of Working

Author: Dasari Sreenivasa Rao/Wednesday, November 11, 2020/Categories: Exclusive

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Lockdown, Unlock Phases Paving New Ways of Working

As industry emerges into a new reality, emphasis is on work rather than from where one works

The pandemic has made the future volatile and difficult to predict. Exploring the cause-and-effect relationship from diverse perspectives across the organisations helps in ensuring that all angles are covered. Each scenario may require different changes to the operating model, core services, critical tasks and capabilities. Organisations now seem to be looking at three key aspects (among others), while considering the emergence of new customs of work culture, according to the latest findings in ‘Return to Office - Employer’ survey carried out by Hysea and ‘Return to Work- Employee’ survey conducted by KPMG in India.

As the industry emerges into a new reality, the emphasis is on the work rather than from where one works. To pivot to the new ways of doing business, organisations need to think on how they can enable agile and sustainable ways of working. 

Employers:

Of the organisations surveyed, 50 per cent would continue to have 90–100 per cent of the workforce working from home till December 2020. However, only around 20 per cent of the organisations would continue to have 90–100 per cent of the work force working from home by March 2021.

Employees:

Based on an employee pulse survey, about three-fourths of the survey population was not comfortable returning to office due to general anxiety about health and well-being of self and family and as there was no negative impact on delivery. As per the KPMG in India CEO Outlook 2020-Covid-19 special edition, one of the key themes that emerged was higher emphasis on digital acceleration in a bid to get future ready. A flexible enterprise architecture that includes cloud infrastructure, applications, platforms, automation technology and virtual work space will be the key enabler. Supporting infrastructures such as cyber security, technology infrastructure, and integrated supply chain will drive business resilience.

There is no one-size-fits all solution, and technology companies are ahead of the curve when it comes to digital transformation. With the strategic technology elements taken care of, organisations can refine their employee experience and talent management strategies.

Focus on Emerging Technologies

Collaborate across functional boundaries in an organisation with skilled employees and AI technologies such as machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation, connecting end-to-end.  Encourage innovation by drawing on teams with diverse skills and experience.  Focus on a delivery model that is digital and not restricted by a physical location. As the industry gradually moves in to the future, clients would also be interested in knowing the delivery capability in times of a business disruption.

Where's the Work Done?

Explore the option of hiring remote work force for greater in-depth skill sets. However, for reasons of infrastructure support and periodic in-person meetings, organisations are considering a perimeter around the ‘hub’(say Hyderabad) where an employee can beat the office when required. The KPMG-Hysea survey sees this model to be adopted in the interim at least, while employers give greater flexibility to the work-from-home approach. 

Evaluate Changes

Choose a robust virtual model with technology that supports virtual collaboration that exemplifies connectivity and interactions that fit into the new operating model. For example, ensure access to uninterrupted power and network bandwidth in shared livings spaces; provide tools that are needed to connect with teams virtually and encourage the use of informal one-on-one chats. The model must support virtual knowledge transfer and internal engagement of employees as they fundamentally define the culture of an organisation and usually require human interaction. Deploy cyber security processes and technology to strengthen the digital architecture of the organization, observes the KPMG-Hysea survey.

Further, KPMG and CBRE in association with the Telangana government prepared a white paper on ‘Post-Covid imperatives for Hyderabad IT industry.’ This report covers certain aspects like how the businesses and Govt responded to the pandemic and how they are preparing for the future. It is based on extensive survey results and one- on-one interviews.

Telangana Industry and IT Minister KT Rama Rao says: “During the beginning of the pandemic, the Telangana state government actively interacted with industry bodies to develop SOPs to be followed by the IT/ITeS industry. The government consistently played a supportive role to ensure business continuity by ensuring policy support and other measures. Easing restrictions and permissions would ensure a smooth transition to working from home basic infrastructure. The government assures the industry with stakeholder support for uninterrupted power supply and broadband connectivity. The government has set up a committee with the labour department and Hysea to address lay-offs, while providing waivers to IT MSMEs and supporting them to improve business by giving them government projects. Instituted the Rejig.HydStartupsprogramme for tech startups and connected them with funding agencies. TheTelangana state has used the pandemic as an opportunity to hone its approach in next generation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cyber Security, Internet of Things, and others.” 

Promote an inclusive work culture that plugs in the gig workforce and includes a multi-generational work force to demonstrate a deeper level of commitment. This gives access to greater in-depth skill sets along with a diverse range of viewpoints. Define working policies that align with the new normal and enable the workforce to work remotely, stay connected and maintain delivery standards. Look out for collaboration opportunities with start-ups and academia to build on innovation technology capabilities and new products and services. Focus on managing productivity and driving a positive employee experience by limiting virtual meetings, offering flexible work schedules and personal time off, etc. Make employee value proposition a key people strategy to include talent brand, learning and development, culture, career path, rewards and recognition and leadership. Organisations must also look at automating manual, repetitive tasks and develop AI and ML capabilities, where needed, while communicating to employees on how they can better equip themselves.

 Prashanth Nandella. COO, Firstsource, said: “Starting 2020, Covid-19 destabilised and disrupted the normal order of things. Business-as-usual approaches to serve customers, working with vendors and collaborating with colleagues suddenly became redundant. Well-entrenched BCP protocols and long-held assumptions on how to respond to a crisis weren’t workable anymore! While the pandemic took us all by surprise, organisations today are better prepared and are on a strong footing. Looking at the fast-evolving business environment juxtaposed with the need to service client expectations with cutting edge technology, Hyderabad is the best place to be. Home to great talent, robust infrastructure, the city emerges as an attractive investment destination and provides organisations the opportunity to operate at scale. Furthermore, the city promises access to a rich, diverse talent pool while boasting of prestigious universities and colleges across the fields of STEM, Medical, Management, Commerce, Humanities and more. Totopit, targeted government policies addressing the skill gap to strengthen Industry-Academia partnership are an added advantage. This makes Hyderabad a strong contender as we look at expanding our footprint in future.”

Due to the pandemic, economic contractions are expected globally. There has been a significant disruption in the IT/ITeS industry and businesses had to switch to the work-from-home model practically overnight. The industry in the city of Hyderabad, like in the rest of the country And the world, was also forced to quickly adapt to new ways of working but managed very well with proactive support from the Telangana state government and industry bodies such as Hysea and others. There are four phases of responding to the Covid-19 crisis— (i) reaction (past), (ii) resilience (past), (iii) recovery (current) and (iv) new reality (future). The response to reaction and Resilience phases has been made, and the industry and the world are currently facing up to Recovering and shaping the new reality. Hyderabad is working hard to gearing up for the future By providing in-depth skills to the diverse talent pool with support and commitment from the Government and infrastructure development. New organizations continue to set up shop here Despite the pandemic and the current base is looking to expand its operations further.

Recovery in hospitality, travel sectors

As per a report from Naukri.com, the worst-hit hospitality and travel industries in India recorded a sequential recovery of 33 per cent in October as metros and tier-1 cities have been opening up gradually in the ongoing Unlock phases. The demand for professionals in the ticketing/travel/airlines and hospitality sectors declined 35 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively, in October versus September. Companies including Oyo, Travel Triangle, Club Mahindra, Sodexo and Frankfinn Aviation have started hiring candidates. Top six metros including Delhi (24 per cent), Mumbai (7 per cent), Bengaluru (6 per cent), Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata contributed to 50 per cent of the jobs in the sectors. Apart from this, roles for the sector are also open in cities like Pune, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. The relaxations in lockdown restrictions from June onwards are reflected in the recovery with a slight dip in July, but an overall upward trend. However, the road to complete recovery is still far off. When we look at the Pre vs Post Covid-19 period, the sector is down by 61 per cent in October compared to February,” said the report.

 Top roles that recruiters are hiring for include sales, business development manager, front officer, guest relationship manager, travel agent, ground staff and accountant. Keywords like facility manager, house-keeping and electrical maintenance are up by 400 per cent, 279 per cent and 21 per cent, in recruiter searches for the sectors, the report mentioned. An earlier report by HVS India and Anarock mentioned that the hospitality segment which was brought to a grinding halt by the pandemic, is slowly witnessing an improvement in demand as hotel occupancy in the country improved 10-12 per cent in September compared to that in August.

32.5% Unemployment Rate for 2020

A recent report jointly prepared by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that the youth unemployment rate in India is likely to be at 32.5 per cent in case the spread of coronavirus is contained within six months of the start of the rigorous containment measures. The study titled ‘Tackling the Covid-19 Youth Employment Crisis in Asia and the Pacific’predicted a grim picture for India’s employment scenario.

As per the report, over 61.13 lakh Indian youth on the verge of losing jobs during 2020 in case the spread is contained within six months, while the total job loss of youth in the country would have stood at 40.84 lakh if it would have been controlled in three months' time. In the six-month scenario, job losses for youth may equal 6.1 million in India, followed by Pakistan with 2.3 million. The youth unemployment rate would have stood at 29.5 per cent in case containment was achieved in three months. The rate in 2019 stood at 23.3 per cent. Interestingly, the survey found that the youth are expected to lose employment at a faster rate than adults. “The fall in youth employment will be affected by the last-in-first-out process, in which young workers (hired more recently and with less job protection) are likely to lose work at a faster rate than adults,” it said. Noting that aggregate job losses will concentrate in seven sectors and the worst-hit sectors of retail trade, textile manufacturing, and hotels and restaurants, will naturally experience large aggregate job losses, it said.

There's a clear shift in outlook of industry captains and it makes the hiring process more elaborative and crucial as well. The hiring panel will have to broaden its horizon between traditional and newly created several classes of professionals. Striking a balance in the hiring process in choosing the right talent will ensure stability and long-term growth of the organisation. The domestic software industry is one of the largest employers in India. With data becoming the new capital to invest in, data analysts, consultants, app developers and software managers are going to be playing an inevitable role right from the inception of any business. This emerging need of the market will drive the IT and other sectors to bounce back with hiring activities, reaching 60 percent of its pre-Covid levels, observe industry experts.

The writer is a business journalist with 27 years of experience

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