Companies have to truly shift their mindsets: Prabir Jha

Companies have to truly shift their mindsets: Prabir Jha

"The soda-fizz of employee engagement has been the wrong pivot," says Prabir Jha, Founder and CEO, Prabir Jha People Advisory. Take a look at this exclusive interview to know more about the future of work and how to make the most of a rich mix of employees spanning multiple generations.


The pre-pandemic war for talent and the pandemic-triggered acceleration of digital transformation across organisations is further bound to enhance the scarcity of talent. Do you believe that a blended workforce (full-time, part-time, contingent, bots, in-office, remote, etc.) can help organisations rise to this challenge of talent scarcity? Will the pandemic transform the manner in which talent is acquired and onboarded?


That we will move to a hybrid workforce, with a greater liquid workforce and a more AI-influenced digital eco-system is a given. However, the speed at which this shift happens will vary by industry and will be reflected in the altered business models of companies, a smarter reengineering of costs and productivity, and the potential inability of many companies to offer the hitherto classical careers. Furthermore, career preferences will shift to more parallel experiences and learning. Undoubtedly, the process and mix of talent hiring will change significantly. I advise a TA start-up that is already revolutionising relatively newer-age hiring practices. Digital assimilation is already here. There are very disruptive, innovative and exciting times ahead!


What are the possible fallouts of a blended workforce on the culture of an organisation? How can they be addressed?


It is all a case of how a company defines its culture. My sense of culture for years has been that it must always flow and never stay static. The emergence of a more heterogeneous workforce representing the new demographics will cause some distinct shifts in culture. Agility, collaboration and impact will need to tango with multi-segment engagement and inclusion. This will make for truly pluralistic cultures with acceptance, if not encouragement, of sub-cultures within a predominant culture.


In the recent past, some leading organisations began seeking high-skills talent through digital talent platforms. This also led them to tap into the skill sets of their internal talent pool. Do you believe that this will function as the fulcrum for better employee engagement?


As I have reiterated for years, the soda-fizz of employee engagement has been the wrong pivot. True engagement does not merely come from fun and dance. It derives from the quality of jobs, the sense of trust and true inclusion, the excitement that comes with a larger passion and the opportunity to work with people who get you to learn and grow all the time. I don’t think it will be any other way in the future. Modes of hiring and styles of engagement will still vary, but the core of true employee engagement will remain unchanged.


We are witnessing a more age-diverse workforce than ever before. How can organisations foster intergenerational collaboration and cohesion given the different work arrangements (from full-time to freelance) and work models (from remote to hybrid)?


Companies have to truly shift their mindsets. There are too many stereotypes about various workforce demographics. We must not prejudge. There will be some common needs and contexts that will need more empathy when building the inclusion of a segment. More diagonal engagement than just horizontal or vertical integrations will build a greater appreciation of each other’s perspectives. Recognition and appreciation must consciously be across categories of the workforce. If we can intentionally make our leadership actions matter to every category, we will have more cohesiveness in our organisational effort.


Depending on the sector, the nature of the work that people do, and the setup an organisation prefers, many companies are rallying to get employees back in-house or piloting a blended working model. Do you believe the office to be an important hub for collaboration, creativity, and innovation?


The jury is yet to be out. I know many people who believe they are more productive working away from the “office” and that conversations have gotten more focused. But my view is that a healthy difference between the office and home is necessary. People need to switch off and recover to keep their creative juices flowing. Also, some water cooler banter, emotional bonding, walking across work stations, collective whiteboarding does help produce greater energy. Challenge and celebration in person have a far greater appeal. So, while we shall see more virtual collaboration platforms getting used, my vote is for more real emotion to build collaboration and creativity.

Ankita Sharma is working as Senior Editor with Human Capital. With 6+ years of experience, she has performed diverse roles across the entire spectrum of corporate HR — from hire to retire.


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