Key To The Organisation's Growth Lies In A Happy & Motivated Workforce: Deepa Chadha

Key To The Organisation's Growth Lies In A Happy & Motivated Workforce: Deepa Chadha

Human Capital spoke to Deepa Chadha, SVP, Human Resources and Corporate Affairs, Vistara, on the impact of the pandemic and the means adopted by Vistara in terms of reskilling and upskilling its employees.


Despite the odds, the COVID-19 pandemic delivered an apt message when the chips were down. While upskilling and reskilling take a backseat when there is a slump in business, 2020 witnessed large scale reskilling among the workforce. The impact of the pandemic was particularly severe on the Aviation Sector, with American Airlines letting go around 19,000 of its employees. However, the Airlines Industry too was involved in the process of upskilling its employees in order to remain sustainable. Human Capital spoke to Deepa Chadha, SVP, Human Resources and Corporate Affairs, Vistara, on the impact of the pandemic and the means adopted by Vistara in terms of reskilling and upskilling its employees.


The Aviation Sector was one among the worst hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic owing to Governments prohibiting Air Travel at the domestic as well as the international sectors for a long time. However, the employees of these companies were still required to carry out work from their homes and this warranted upskilling. In what areas were upskilling warranted in the Aviation Sector and what were the ways in which they were carried out?


Considering the nature of the industry we operate in, working from home is not an option for a majority of our workforce who are engaged in various operational roles such as cabin crew, pilots, ground services, engineering, technicians etc.


With the objective of continuous organisational and individual growth, providing our employees with relevant opportunities for upskilling and reskilling themselves has been a part of our L&D strategy from the beginning. With the pandemic came new ways of working in the new normal, and that meant re-examining operational requirements. All areas, from operations to regulation and compliance and development, warranted upskilling, in order for the workforce to continue performing their jobs and excel as a team.


To address this and all future requirements for upskilling, we have an ever-evolving learning and development calendar in place at Vistara that is developed basis discussions with leaders, recommendations from experts, and the changing requirements of the industry. Over the digital medium, we rolled out a Digital L&D calendar for the entire financial year where experts designed and facilitated trainings on leadership, soft skills, and functional skills. We also leveraged opportunities within the ecosystem of our parent organisations and brought the best learning opportunities from the Tata group to our colleagues, especially with support from the Tata Management Training Centre (TMTC) and Tata Business Excellence Group (TBExG).


Given the fact that the impact of the pandemic has subsided significantly, and Airlines, particularly in India, have resumed their operations. What have been the areas in the Aviation Sector where rapid upskilling was warranted to ensure that the Airline companies could sustain themselves for the ‘Future Workplace’?


As an immediate response to the pandemic, the most crucial requirement was to train our staff on COVID specific safety measures that were required to be integrated across all processes and operations. This included educating them about their role in ensuring a COVID safe environment for everyone, training the frontline teams to be able to help customers follow the SOPs etc.


With the change in the industry landscape, certain domains required training that focused on levelling up digital, cognitive and communication capabilities. We also focused heavily on ensuring that our team members are well prepared to work remotely, while taking care of their personal mental well-being and stress levels at check. For Vistara, this was also a period when we had inducted new aircraft models and specific teams operating these aircrafts had to be given aircraft-specific trainings. This was a crucial area of training that had a direct business impact and was managed by the respective teams with the help of several digital interventions and remote collaboration tools.


Attrition across sectors has been one of the biggest banes of the pandemic, and companies have been forced to reskill their redundant workforce in order to meet their business exigencies. How was the Airlines Industry impacted by Attrition and how did you manage the upskilling programme in Vistara in the ensuing period?


At Vistara, we have worked hard to build a sense of community that thrives because of transparent, empathetic, and engaging communication between employees and the management. Our teams understand the dynamic nature of the industry we operate in, and are responsible, passionate individuals, which is why attrition (more than usual) was not an after-effect of the pandemic for Vistara.


We also try and stay abreast with the entire workforce, understand their requirements and have constant dialogues about their growth. To this end, digitalisation and automation of key processes like regular monthly connect with HR, a digital L&D calendar, consistent engagement at various digital events, quarterly R&R events etc. have played a very important role. We believe that the key to the organisation’s growth lies in having a happy and motivated workforce.


The Pandemic also worked to accelerate digital transformation and automation within companies that required employees to reskill themselves in such tools or companies were required to scout for talent equipped with such skills. What were some very typical situations encountered by you at Vistara when it came to rapid adoption of Digital Tools and Techniques and how were these addressed?


Vistara was already on a digital transformation journey, and the pandemic only sped up the process. As a consequence, almost every business process was either touched by digital technology or the mode of operation moved to a digital medium.


Training, on-boarding of new joiners, regular employee connects, celebrations of different occasions & events, business meetings & reviews, software development & configuration, management of COVID staff support – these are just the tip of the iceberg when we retrace our steps and address typical situations where rapid adoption of digital tools and techniques was implemented.



A Randstad Study has revealed that employees are eager to work with such employers who provide them with training/upskilling while on the job. This indicates that reskilling will remain to be an ongoing process for many years to come. How is the Airlines preparing itself for such a scenario and what are the immediate changes that have been brought into the training programmes at Vistara?


We are glad to see training and upskilling hold so much appeal today. Development and continuous growth of our employees is something that we take very seriously at Vistara. We also consider upskilling as a morale booster, and hence, we consistently reinforce its importance. Career conversations are a part of our performance appraisals where employees discuss their aspirations with their managers and identify skill gaps to bridge, which the organisation supports.


While the fundamentals of training programmes remain the same, some immediate changes we have incorporated after the pandemic include moderations in the courses to make them better suitable for a virtual medium, introduction of blended learning and e-Learning etc. There is also a higher focus on internal SME driven training.


It has been revealed by Hubstaff that once companies transitioned to remote working there was an 85% appreciation in productivity. It was also reported that if companies did not create avenues for acquiring new skills, the gains could dissipate. How would you interpret this from Vistara’s standpoint?


Only a small percentage of employees in the aviation industry have desk jobs, so the transition to remote working is limited to a small section of our team.


When it comes to acquiring new skills, exploring digital/automated ways of doing things has now become a forethought instead of an afterthought, and we welcome this change with open arms. In the new normal, skills such as resilience, agility, learnability, and digital acumen will go a long way, which is also our focus for the future of L&D at Vistara.


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