It is up to every leader to ensure members know what is expected of them and 'why': Sunitha Lal

It is up to every leader to ensure members know what is expected of them and 'why': Sunitha Lal

"While absolute remote working is not an option for the Manufacturing sector, automation supports hybridisation," says Sunitha Lal, CHRO, Ather Energy. Check out this exclusive interview to know more about the future of work in the manufacturing sector.

Although the blending of workforces (full-time, part-time, contingent, bots, in-office, remote, etc.) is not a new trend, it has gained fresh momentum due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Which roles in the manufacturing sector are best performed by full-time employees, and which are better suited to contingent talent? Do you foresee certain full-time jobs veering into non-traditional domains?


The Manufacturing industry has an inherent demand for the physical presence of its workforce. Team members often need to operate tools, assembly lines, and conduct tests that require laboratory or factory conditions.


While absolute remote working is not an option for the Manufacturing sector, automation supports hybridisation. Integrating IoT and building smart factories make remote working possible. This way machines at the factory are connected, and the data from the manufacturing lines are available to team members anywhere, at all times. This improves efficiency by reducing turnaround time, to help make data-driven decisions a reality. 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.


How do you believe the manufacturing sector will rise to this challenge of talent scarcity? Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will transform the manner in which talent is acquired and onboarded?


The COVID-19 pandemic has pivoted the thought process around talent acquisition. It has transformed how the industry onboards and trains new team members. This change has not been easy, but the priorities remain the same:


 • Set context


 • Reduce the information overload 


 • Ease the assimilation process for the new joiner


But, particularly during the pandemic, these have not been the only concerns, more so for manufacturing companies. While the workforce needs to be physically available at the office, companies are responsible for alleviating fear, especially around health and safety. As we inoculate more people, we hope to have clarity, but the reality is harsh.


Many years ago, NASA engineers were apparently against employing crowdsourcing platforms for the simple reason that they stood to eliminate the culture of NASA— collaboration and brainstorming. What are the possible fallouts of a blended workforce on the culture of an organisation?


For manufacturing companies, during the pandemic, a hybrid work style has been the only option outside of shutting down operations altogether. There is a need for more time and resources to be spent on creating awareness, sensitisation and training. This definitely introduces challenges such as longer timelines due to limited face-to-face interactions. Collaboration and brainstorming remain to be the foundation, while the need for greater inclusivity has escalated.


In developing a blended workforce, do you believe that the senior leadership is required to bring about a mindset shift within the company that full-time employees alone cannot ensure the completion of work/projects? If yes, how can leadership channelise such a mindset change within an organisation in the manufacturing sector?


A position of employment is a contract between the individual team member and the organisation. Leaders need to carve out the right roles, with clear and direct deliverables, and a ‘space’ for each team member to fulfil their purpose and feel needed.


Especially in a blended workforce, the distinction of work, tasks, and objectives is as vital as doling out responsibilities. It is not easy to pick up the most important task the team is working on without listing out the priorities. Thus, communication yet again takes centre stage and it is up to every leader to ensure members know what is expected of them and ‘why’.


Depending on the sector, the nature of the work that people do, and the setup an organisation prefers, some companies are going virtual-first while others 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?


Blended work depends on the sector and the size of the organisation, and it is the way ahead. An office is certainly a place for all things collective and creative. But, as said earlier, the current situation does not give us too many options.


However, collaboration is not limited to meeting in person, it is dependent on how we foster shared goals. We cannot compare the present situation with general remote working, where meeting once in a while is still possible, and people have active social lives. The limitations are too many during the pandemic.


0/3000 Free Article Left >Subscribe