It is imperative for an organisation to drive home the Inclusion and Belongingness (I&B) agenda in order to save employees from the adverse physical and mental conditions to which they are exposed.
Prehistoric humans began tracking the movement of the Sun, and this emerged as the determinant of all their activities. We now have a new visitor on our radar who has become the central point of our existence. However hard it is to follow this new guest, it is, unfortunately, the sole reality.
Among the zillions of articles on the internet, COVID-19 has gained prominent space – covering both good and bad about the disease – indicating the burden of an uncertain future for millions of people.
Even though leaders around the world have acknowledged the positive impact of remote working that has seamlessly enabled their BCPs, job security and stability seem to be in a state of fuzzy logic. From hoaxes affirming the repetition of the Great Depression to reality confirming the actual intensity of the cases, it is only natural for the layperson to absorb the worst of it all. During such a panic phase, it is imperative for an organisation to drive home the Inclusion and Belongingness (I&B) agenda, to save employees from the adverse physical and mental conditions to which they are exposed.
Why I&B is critical in COVID-19 times?
VUCA as intense as the ongoing pandemic is unprecedented. Despite organisations implementing successful BCPs, the crisis has brought out yet another challenge, which does not come under the criteria of functional or technical. It is nothing but the essential strand or foundation of any conglomerate - human resources management.
With studies confirming an increased rate of psychological pressure among employees, who are anticipating an impromptu send-off, several organisations are already keeping vigil to bring the tension down to incorporate a healthy and inclusive virtual working environment.
The top three fears in the minds of today’s workforce globally are:-
‣ Health: Physical & Mental
‣ Job: Security & Stability
‣ Finance: Availability & Continuity
Organisations, small and large, are on track, helping to curb the issue of insecurity among their employees. A majority of organisations have started emphasising on utilising Emotional Intelligence (EI) more than financial support, since the need of the hour is to breathe in a feeling of belongingness. And hence, they have been tirelessly working towards implementing various people management practices to reassure their support and care.
By being the ally and having an ally: Sometimes we need someone to just listen. The COVID time has been intensely terrible for those who have been living apart from their families, and financial constraints get added on to the pile. An act of assurance and extending the required help will enable a positive outlook on the organisation and render peace of mind to the employee. Offering financial stability or rolling out benefits, in the manner in the way in which Ally Financial has acted is appreciable. The finance company spared no time and sent home those employees who were categorised as vulnerable as per CDC guidelines, with full salaries. A similar, commendable initiative was carried out by ITC Hotels, wherein each HR Manager checks on at least 10 employees every day.
By bringing the We together: With virtual collaboration and communication ruling the front, engagement and socialising have never been so easier. Initiatives by McDonald’s India and Panasonic of bringing the employees closer through multiple virtual programmes like masterclasses, quizzes etc. was aimed at keeping the team productively engaged.
By being fair in work distribution: An equity-driven environment is always a healthy place to work in. The less feasibility of remote working for some has unbalanced work and pay. However, certain companies also went the extra mile to help their employees during the time of need. SRK exports, a leading diamond manufacturer, paid its entire workforce, including contract workers, full salary for March. Its combined workforce actually comes to around 6000.
By bonding with an inclusive mindset: Employees may come from different backgrounds and at present, bear unpredictable mindsets. This is the time during which inclusive leadership plays a critical role. Everyone is vulnerable to the unpredicted situation and it is essential for a leader to understand this diverse population and their needs. The pledge by Paytm’s CEO to contribute two months of his salary for his employees, and Amazon paying two-weeks pay to those quarantined or diagnosed with COVID are some praiseworthy initiatives.
Reverse the VUCA – and emphasise it!
VUCA needs to be managed with Inclusion even more than before. Cited below is a simple acronym to ensure how the VUCA we know (Volatility-Uncertainity-Complexity-Ambiguity) can be reversed in our respective environments to Vision-Understanding-Clarity-Agility :
◆ Vision: Articulation of Vision to a greater extent becomes the responsibility of the leader. Unilever’s Sanjiv Mehta addressed the organisation to reiterate the vision of the company, once again unifying the organisation’s energies.
◆ Understanding: The Vedanta Group, a 100 Best company for women, has not declared a pay cut, and has in fact gone ahead with the promised increments and bonuses for the financial year. The understanding displayed by the company in assisting with the average employee’s financial situation has created a great amount of pride and belongingness.
◆ Clarity: Accenture’s Ellyn J. Shook worked with other leaders to ensure that the core business needs were immediately addressed. The clarity in addressing business problems and communicating the same to all stakeholders has resulted in Accenture worldwide reaffirming its raison d’etre to customers around the world.
◆ Agility: The Tata group worked on a work-from-home policy in record time and ensured that every single member of its large business expanse, was aware of how the business would function and proceed. The rapid response to COVID-19 in terms of ensuring that employees felt the coming together of the leaders and the quick decisions taken, underscored the agility of the organisation.
Emphasising inclusion and establishing belongingness is crucial at a time like this. When every leader – designated or otherwise, decides to wear I&B with pride, reach out to as many people as possible, and just give the comfort of the thought – “We are all together in this!”, the post-Covid world will be one which is more inclusive.
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