The pandemic has led us to think outside of the box: Partha Das

The pandemic has led us to think outside of the box: Partha Das

"Reward mechanisms and incentive schemes are needed for employees’ extra stretch. We must add more benefits instead of withdrawing any of the existing ones," says Partha Das, VP and Head – HR, Manipal Hospitals. Take a look at this exclusive interview to know more about the future of work in the healthcare industry.

The pre-pandemic war for talent and the pandemic-triggered shortage of healthcare workers, particularly the kind of skilled workers the industry needs, is further bound to enhance the scarcity of talent. How do you believe the healthcare industry will rise to this challenge of talent scarcity?


There is an increasing demand for skilled staff due to the pandemic and sudden surge of COVID-19 cases. Hospitals are trying to treat as many COVID patients as possible, may it be in the shape of keeping aside some dedicated beds for patients or setting up dedicated COVID care centres outside the hospital premises. We ensure that we are adequately staffed based on our workforce planning which is further linked to occupancy.


The need of the hour is to retain talent, which requires desired mechanisms in place. For example, we must ensure employees’ wellbeing through various wellness and engagement programmes. They should feel both engaged and motivated. Reward mechanisms and incentive schemes are needed for their extra stretch. In fact, we must add more benefits instead of withdrawing any of the existing ones. Timely salary revision is something that many healthcare employees haven’t witnessed for the last couple of years. Some of the monetary benefits are nothing compared to the commendable job they have been selflessly carrying out.


Secondly, it’s imperative to train the existing talent to rise to the occasion and deliver. One way to do this is continuous communication from leaders, which helps build the trust factor among employees and enhances the culture index.


Do you think the pandemic will transform how talent is acquired and onboarded?


The pandemic has led us to think outside of the box for sure. We look forward to using technology as much as possible. Video consultations, scheduling appointments, settling bills, etc., are some examples of technological change. Many processes, such as physical interviews, induction, training sessions, communication platforms like townhall, etc., have switched to virtual mode.


Although the blending of workforces (full-time, part-time, contingent, bots, in-office, remote, etc.) is not a new trend, it has gained new momentum following the pandemic. Which roles in the healthcare industry are best performed by full-time employees, and which are better suited to contingent talent? Do you foresee certain healthcarerelated jobs becoming a part of the gig economy?


In the healthcare industry, most of the jobs are carried out by full-time employees, and quite a few jobs like nursing, patient care, etc., are 24/7. The hybrid model doesn’t work well for this industry. However, bots are useful for query management for patients or employees. When keeping the patient experience in mind, it is best to have dedicated and well-trained full-time employees, not to mention technology, wherever possible. I don’t foresee any healthcare-related jobs becoming a part of the gig economy, nor do I see a place for working from home in this industry.


Depending on the sector, the nature of the work that people do, and the setup an organisation prefers, companies are piloting a hybrid working model to combine the benefits of both co-located and remote work. How viable is a blended working arrangement for organisations in the healthcare industry? Are there specific roles that can effectively work remotely?


As mentioned in my response to the previous question about the scope of the hybrid model, remote working doesn’t look viable in this industry. Most of the functions are patient-facing and require human touch and intervention. As a culture, we strongly believe in the patient experience and the employee experience. We find ways to enhance patient-centricity by using technology, but none of the core functions of the healthcare industry can be managed remotely.


How can HR and senior leadership ensure that the value created by a blended workforce is greater than the sum of its individual constituents?


HR must work closely with the leadership team to help them manage people well. Leaders lead by example. Communication is a very powerful tool, and certainly, demonstrated deeds of leaders motivate and drive the blended workforce. We will need to go beyond tweaking the existing approaches to manage work and make radical shifts in how we think about our workforces.


Endorsement and encouragement from the C-suite and senior leaders can enable organisations to break away from old practices and adopt creative solutions to filling skill deficits.


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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