Leveraging 'People' Power of Sustainability

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The Need To Have Dynamic Business Model To Manage Chaos

I come from old engineering organisation background where people would love to see things happening in front of them. Bosses wanted to see people every day to get the updates and discuss issues. Internet, WiFi, Laptops, Tabs, Audio and Video calls never bothered them. They always want real people next to them as if manufacturing will not happen without them.

Pandemic came and the game changed. All employees were supposed to work from home. India had longer stint with lockdown as compared to a few other countries. Some countries even went for further lockdowns with second or third waves of Covid19. Now, WFH is way of life.

Once in a decade, the rules change. But today’s change is huge enough. Businesses and organisations are in the middle of a fundamental change. In recent past, talent has become the primary source of competitive advantage for all. Things such as money, infrastructure, facilities, materials, etc have lost their prime importance. At the same time, expectations from that talent have also changed. Simply because the way work gets done in the businesses has changed. How employees work, where they work, how they do business, how they interact, everything has changed once and for all, and the speed is supersonic. It is imperative for the leadership team and executives to recognise, understand and deal with this huge transformation and its implications on the way they used to lead and manage.

Knowledge has become a clear source of value creation for businesses. Businesses have understood that knowledge is the main source of competitive advantage, and knowledge workers will drive business success in the coming years. This pandemic proved that most organisations are not managing their knowledge workers effectively. In fact, they were not prepared for this situation at all. They do not provide good workplaces, effective working conditions and advance technology support that fulfils the needs and expectations of their most critical resource. The country’s infrastructure was always considered from the point of view of the organisation and not from the employee. Organisations tried to provide some digital platforms for employees to ‘Work From Home’. But, there was no sufficient support at their homes. Employees were not having Desktops and Laptops to work for. They were not having sufficient bandwidth of internet to work. Some tried to use their smartphone or tabs to use for official work. It became tough for them to glue to small screens for whole day. This situation also broke myth of 8 hours work shift. Work hours got extended.

Organisations now need to understand that they were spending extra money on many things. The creative and unified management of knowledge workers, their work places, technology and tools they use and infrastructures they rely on can reduce workforce support costs by huge amount and at the same time improving employee productivity, effectiveness and satisfaction. If organisations start supporting employees at their home to develop the workplace, it will fetch long-term benefits. It will save the organisations millions of dollars in the long run.   

Additionally, redesigning workplaces more innovatively and barrier-breaking people strategies will give organisations more agility and much needed flexibility in an increasingly volatile business world.

To make this happen, organisations need to do the deep rethinking of all the elements involved in the workplace and employee management. Age old basic conventions need to be re-examined and reconstructed. The business success in coming decade will depend directly on an organisation’s ability to appreciate these drastic changes and to redefine its workforce, workplaces, technologies and strategies. Facilities Management, Information Technology and Human Resource Management will play vital role in this robust integration of the functions and the changes coming in. These three functions will play important and deciding role by joining hands and work towards new efficient work structures and managing the sweeping changes. There is a strong business case for making significant change in workforce management practices and workplace design principles. This could result in huge savings for the organisations.

Last 11 months have forced many organisations to unlearn and relearn many things and fundamentals – things like demand, turnover, profitability, manpower, etc. will go up for some time and again come down. Some of the tactics such as manpower rationalisation, reengineering, divestments, budget cuts, etc. may help in surviving for short-term but it hampers in long term feasibility.

Now, organisations need to be more agile, flexible and scalable, both upwards and downwards. They need to think how many fixed costs can be made variable, e.g., facilities, technology and manpower, etc. The new mantra will be a dynamic business model capable of adjusting quickly in response to changing business demands and situations. Currently, most of the knowledge workers are operating from their homes and this figure could be 60% to 70% of total manpower. The functions which can be targeted such as supply chain, research and development, testing, human resource, finance and accounting, audit, information technology, etc. In recent example, an IT company has provided Rs 5000 per month (70 USD) to their employees to compensate for WiFi, Internet, workspace creation, etc. They have surrendered their 2 huge floors of rental workspace and saved on rentals, power, water, facilities management, employee transport, vending machines, canteens, etc. They are going to continue with this model for 2 more years.   

Recent observations have shown that successful organisations have focused on rationalising the workforce support costs which includes technology, facilities, travel, food, etc. At the same time, these organisations have ensured that their critical workforce has the access to the information and digital platforms to remain highly efficient at all times. They have created easy work environments which attract and leverage high performing knowledge workers.

Dr Sudhir Hasamnis

Superannuated from Tata Motors, Pune, India as Assistant General Manager, IT and currently working as Associate Professor at IICMR MBA College, Pune and Management Consultant. He has 40 years of industrial experience and 10 years of teaching and coaching.