We recently connected with Priya Chakravarty – Senior Director – HR, Essar Capital to understand how the Company has successfully transitioned from in office to remote and then hybrid and the various ways in which leadership, HR and various business functions have supported to counter challenges to help teams perform to their optimum levels.
How has the world of work changed for you as an organization in the past 22-23 months?
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we woke up to a new reality unfolding every day. No one had answers for the long-term or even midterm vision, but we knew exactly what we were doing and what we needed to accomplish over the coming days. This inherent agility, or comfort with change became the bedrock for engagement, productivity, reassurance and protection.
As the new norm settled in, at Essar, we were quick to rationalise the new order of doing business and working as teams. We introduced a hybrid working model to identify the most comfortable and productive policies. We ensured that we hired contract and freelance resources to fill new gaps necessitated by the pandemic to enable and support our teams.
What are some of the ways in which you engage your employees in a remote environment?
With the introduction of a hybrid working model, our teams have been comfortable working in different environments, with a different set of enablers for the workplace and home or any other remote location. The HR and business functions worked together to make sure support was provided to all teams to help them perform optimally. We introduced various initiatives which helped improve employee’s productivity and well-being whilst working in a remote environment.
We have our monthly newsletter, Times of Essar, where we share stories of our teammates, best practices and more. We also have weekly virtual engagement activities under our Happiness Quotient banner, along with workshops on emotional health, to help employees strengthen their emotional and mental well-being. Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) help employees deal with personal and professional grievances through access to an expert.
Do you feel that communication is one of the missing links in employee engagement? How does your organization communicate with its employees?
Since the lockdown, we were quick to put together a special team of HR resources to handle grievances and requirements that supported any Essarite who needed it; in any way possible. We focused on HR communications in a different way, to drive various activities to help employees stay informed, engaged and assured. Essar made sure to assign dedicated teams to support employees and also train them, to enable ease of work, both from home and office. This included
- Enabling employees to be technically equipped
- All office software’s supporting the new hybrid model were installed
- IT team keeping stock of IT assets available and maintaining an access to procure additional assets in case of emergency requirements
More so, through Essar Radio, we found engaging ways to communicate with employees and maintain connect in an informal setting. We also sent regular mailers to employees to keep them abreast of the situation, on various HR policies, and activities for engagement, motivation and learning. Essar executed a large-scale cross-skilling strategy that reduced the skill-gaps in the remote working scenario. This way we stay connected with our employees and also addressed their concerns.
What do your employees look forward to in terms of learning and career growth opportunities?
Learning has been a key focus at Essar. Throughout the organisation and across every location, we enabled training programmes to help employees adjust to the new normal. In the spirit of positive action at Essar, we bring to the employees, the opportunity to work in a multinational business environment, where one can showcase their talents, learn and grow, while facing challenges and developing skills. While we assist the employees at every step to evolve personally and professionally, we also give them the freedom to plot their own career graph on the basis of their aspirations and expectations. We offer a multinational, diverse business environment to showcase our employees’ talents and simultaneously learn from the exposure.
With the support of the leadership team, we put in place learning and development programmes to ensure that the productivity of the workforce kept evolving with the times. We paid particular attention to developing skills that ensure effective communication, performance management, and team building. Some of the learning and career growth programmes include:
Essar deployed a variety of Cadres-programs as part of its Strategic Manpower Planning imperatives. These programs have been set up with the aim of catering to identified business needs. They are designed to meet general management requirements, as well as specific skill sets mandated by business imperatives.
We renewed our learning methodology by building digital training programs, and creating an ecosystem of learning that produces and delivers digital content rapidly to a broad base of employees.
Mocktails with Mentors
We introduced this initiative to help employees connect with a mentor of their choice, and understand how to approach growth and success. Several leaders were identified as mentors who connected virtually on a weekly basis with employees, and guided them according to their capabilities, potential and growth opportunities!
As an organization employing 7000 employees, how do you ensure diversity at all levels of the organization?
Essar is an equal opportunity employer and we cherish and value diversity of thought, gender, skill sets and experiences to match the diversity in our business lines. Our commitment to nurturing and encouraging women in the Essar workforce has been prolific, and we take great pride in being partners in the value journey of our exceptional Women Leaders. Some of them today serve on the Boards of Essar companies.
We believe the umbrella of diversity encompasses many different kinds of individuals and communities. Despite the fact that most firms have made gender diversity a priority, it is the rest of the diverse talent that ends up yearning for recognition in the corporate world. They include the queer community, the disabled and the aged, among others.
Essar has taken initiatives for one such community through its multiple initiatives. We have been pushing transgender inclusion in the workplace. Since 2018, Essar has been taking continuous steps to eradicate the marginalisation of the transgender community. The program aimed to eliminate the marginalisation of the transgender community, by allowing them equal opportunities to grow, train and become eligible for mainstream professions.
As we look ahead in 2022, what are some of the changes that you as an HR head look forward to?
With the pandemic showing significant signs of receding and mellowing down, organisations need to cautiously move towards normalisation of business. Adaptability and flexibility would be key for workforce, to not just thrive in a hybrid model, but be quick in making the switch between WFH and WFO basis the various waves of the pandemic.
Year 2022 will be about balancing such changes at optimum levels, and yet ensure performance, efficiencies, motivation, engagement and learning. The world is going digital, which makes personalisation a strong suit for managers and leaders. Amidst these unusual times, managers and leaders need to have more personal conversations with their employees to know how well they are processing and responding to the changes.
Employees are the heart and soul of an organisation. The organisations that survived the pandemic had a strong culture woven by consistent communication and compassionate leadership. Today, what we are discussing is different. Alongside hefty doses of deja vu, the new variants are bringing questions of how to sustain and grow through the new normal. This means not just living with it but also adding value and getting ahead of it.