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Role of HR post Covid crisis

Work from anywhere

What could be the role of HR in the post Covid scenario ? This is a question, which may be lurking in the minds of many people. I would state that HR could evolve their “Ten Commandments” post the Covid crisis is over and employees gradually trickle back to the workplace.

1. Job Security : In the post Covid scenario, most employees would be worried about their jobs. This would mean a lurking fear that their organisations would have lost revenue for more than a few months and this could result in job losses for many. So, the first duty of HR could be to make the CEO communicate to all employees how they plan to get over this crisis and assure employees at all levels that they would not lose their jobs.

2. New Workplace : The new workplace will have a new normal. It will not be the same place of work like in the past. Apart from physical sanitisation of everything, there would be silence and loneliness at the workplace. There is need to make people adapt to this new work environment through effective communication and counselling by the managers and leaders at all levels.

3. Cost optimisation : While HR leaders should try their best to save jobs, they could be the champions of cost reduction efforts in the organisation. They could engage with employees at all levels and enable formation of teams so that cost reduction is in everybody’s radar and the organisations are able to make up for the losses incurred by this pandemic.

4. Employee engagement : In the post Covid scenario, employee engagement actions become all the more critical. It is important to make employees adapt to the new workplace and at the same time realise that we need to continue to serve our customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders and all other stakeholders as we did before.

5. Work from anywhere : While the Covid crisis forced organisations and employees to adapt to the work from home option, it may be an opportunity for HR in organisations to enable employees to work from anywhere. This means no fixed workstations, laptops for everyone and they could work from any office or any place of their choice in the future.

6. Re-engineering processes : This is a great opportunity for HR to facilitate all the functions in the organisation to challenge all their existing processes and eliminate unwanted ones, simplify those needed and automate wherever possible. The shop-floor could also be digitised and automated so as to minimise human interface in routine operations and use employees for human value addition, which robots or machines cannot do like listening to and attending to customer grievances.

7. Rewrite the HR manual : Just like the Constitution of a nation gets amended from time to time based on the needs of the nation, this is a great opportunity in the history of the organisation to re-write its HR manual. It may be helpful to keep it simple, eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and all paper work if possible.

8. Productivity : While many of us may not realise that India still has one of the lowest labour costs in the world but our productivity is not on par with the best in the world. This reset post Covid gives us an opportunity to rejig our productivity levels at the shop floor, in our offices and also in all our processes with suppliers and customers. For eg. is it possible for all employees to deal with all HR processes through their mobile phones and eliminate all paper work in the future.

9. Digitalisation : The ability to go digital in all aspects of work is a real possibility in the new workplace. Sales can happen online and service can be remotely handled. This means manufacturing can be digitilalised and automated and so can be all other processes. If banks can provide all their services through digital means so can all other organisations and this is the best time to transition and go digital, wherever feasible.

10. Employee Health & Safety : This crisis provides the best opportunity for organisations to rewrite its health and safety standards. It is not only physical health but mental and emotional health and wellness, which will get tested post this crisis. So , it is the best time for organisations to prepare for similar unknown crises in the future.

While I may not have listed down all possible things, which HR leaders could do post this crisis, I have focussed on the most important and called them the “Ten commandments for HR”.

Do let me know if I have missed out anything ? You can make your own “Ten commandments for HR” based on the needs of your own organisation.

S Ramesh Shankar

12th May 2020

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Relearning from childhood…

IMG_2188

Learning is a life long journey. I was sitting with my grandson, who is 7 years old. He asked me if I knew how to use Instagram on my phone. I said yes. He asked me if I could take a photo of his with the whiskers of a rabbit. I told him that I did know how to do it. He readily agreed to teach me.

He advised me to open the app on my phone. He then showed me as to how change the setting on the phone and then take a selfie as in the photo above. I was quite stunned. It was great learning to use a mobile app from a 7 year old.

As children, we are inquisitive and curious. We learn continually by observing others and things around us. When I asked him as to how did he learn it – he said that he saw my son doing the same on his phone. As we grow up in life, we possibly forget to be curious. Our inquisitiveness is buried within us. We feel shy to ask questions and thereby our learning retards.

It is time to look back and learn from childhood. If we cannot turn the clock back, we can observe young kids around us and learn from them. Another incident made me realise how simple observation can be of great learning value. My grand son was at home for his school vacation. We were playing with each other. Then he wanted to download a few games on my iPad.

I gave him my iPad and enquired which games he would like download. He glanced through the app and shortlisted a few. When I was about to download, he told not to do so. He informed me that every app has a preview. We should preview the game and only if it is interesting, we should download the app. It would otherwise be waste of money. I could not believe that a young kid of 7 years could be so knowledgable on how to carefully download game apps from the internet without wasting money.

To be honest I was not aware of it. This helps learn an important lesson in life. We all are good learners as kids. We observer everything around us and learn. We do not hesitate to ask questions when in doubt. As we grow up our observations skills fades away and hence may be our learning ability also diminishes. We are scared of asking questions when we do not know so as to hide our ignorance rather than learn from others who know.

It is time to reflect. It is time rekindle the child in us. It is time ask questions of curiosity from everyone around us including kids. It is never too late to change. It is also never too late to unlearn, learn and relearn.

Time to restart is today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

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Joy of giving…

I have always be in awe of our festivals in India. Diwali is no exception. Apart from lights and crackers, one recalls Diwali with fond memories because the entire family got together once in a year and celebrated together. We got up early at dawn and had an oil bath before sunrise and enjoyed all the sweets and savouries all day.

Today I got a new insight on Diwali. It is celebrated in India with two different beliefs in the northern and southern part of the country. In the north, people believe that Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after his 14 years in the forests and hence is welcomed back with lights and crackers. In the South, it is believed that Lord Krishna killed a ghost by name Narakaasura on this day in Dwaraka Yuga.

The new insight I got today is from a forward about the story of Narakaasura and the lessons for all of us. It is believed that Narakaasura is the “I” or ego residing in all of us as humans. When Lord Krishna killed Narakaasura, he eliminated our ego and released more than 16000 evils in us. So the next day on amavasya we pray to Godess Lakshmi to lead us to the right path.

Every ritual in Hindu religion and so in other religions has a deep insight for all of us. We generally get swayed by the rituals and start believing that they are of no use and most of us including me give up rituals because they serve no human purpose. I have been no exception. Now that I have all the time in the world, I am able to reflect and get new insights into these rituals.

Another interesting belief that we should clean our home and get rid of all the unwanted things. This is also symbolic that God wants us to give up all that is not necessary and take up the good things in life.

It is also enshrined in our religions that the best way to serve God is to serve the human kind. If we give more, we get more. If we are content with what we have, God always gives us more than what we need. This is the challenge for all of us. How much is enough – is a question difficult to ask and answer for oneself ?

I have admired people who give away without expecting anything in return. Recently another friend forwarded a message with a great insight. It was a couplet from Rahim. When Tulsidas looked at Rahim donating, he found his eyes looked at the ground and so asked him ” O great person, where have you learnt this amazing way of giving ? “. As your hands rise ( to give), your eyes look down. “. Rahim replies – “. The Giver is someone else ( God Almighty), giving day and night. The world has a misconception that I am the giver. So, I lower my eyes in embarrassment. ”

The best people I have met in life are those who give unconditionally. They are anonymous most of the times and recipient does not know that they are the donors. They give because they have a surplus and they are grateful to the Almighty for it and want to thank him for the generosity bestowed on them.

It is like the exotic orchid in the photo above, given my colleagues at work, which are blooming because of their unconditional love.

This blog a salute from my side to all the wonderful people who have made me what I am today. They have given me support, advice, money and love unconditionally. I can never ever return their favour in any form. I promise to give back without expecting anything in return as I bow in gratitude to them.

S Ramesh Shankar

27th October 2019

If we can, we should…

I have always wondered as to why we don’t do what we should. It could be a simple routine of a morning walk or a more a bit more complex as completing a project on time at work. Either way, we always spend more time in finding excuses for our non performance than putting in efforts to ensure our performance.

Interestingly I have noted that this trait in us continues with us from childhood to old age. As a kid, we invent excuses for not doing our home work or for skipping school or college. We become more innovative as we grow into adolescence and take our parents and friends for a ride. We enjoy discovering excuses at this stage of our lives.

Then we we grow as adults and we start working and this trait is not left behind. We always have the traffic congestion for our late coming to office or even the internet breakdown for delay in execution of any work related project. On the other hand, we never miss a flight because of traffic when we go on a holiday or miss a movie online because the net breaks down.

So life gives us all the opportunities to excel in whatever we want to do. We find the silliest of reasons to give up on chances, which come our way without our even asking for it. So, what does this do to us and to others. We miss steps in our career growth and lose our personal credibility. Others lose their respect for us as individuals in the family and colleagues at work.

Now, let us look at what happens if we do what we can. This may appear simple but may be one of the most difficult things to accomplish in life. I find people not keeping their word to their kids to take them for a movie. Imagine you meet people who will always keep their word. I have met many of them in my life – both at work and in my personal life.

First, you have high respect for such people because once they commit, they deliver. Secondly, they infuse this positive energy in others. If you work for a leader who is always on time and always delivers on all her commitments, you tend to become like them. This is natural. If my parents were courteous to everyone around, I learn to be that way. Similarly if my manager does what he can, then I do whatever I can too.

Even in our personal lives we love people who keep their word and deliver. When our parents always get us what they have promised, we respect them. On the other hand, we have scant regard for friends or relatives who always forget what they can do and find reasons for their non delivery.

Interestingly this phenomenon is universal. It is not linked to state, country, religion, ethnicity, culture or language. Having worked in multinational organisations, I have experienced it across the globe. So the choice is simple. If we are determined to do we what should, we can.

Even in the current Covid times, they are asking us to do 3 simple things. Wearing a mask , keeping a metre distance and washing our hands. We can and we should if we want to prevent the virus attacking us.

As in the photo above, if we can relax, we should. Gautam Buddha teaches us relaxation is possible at all times.

Life could be different from today if we make this small change.

Lets give it a try.

S Ramesh Shankar

14th June 2020

Listening to the unsaid …

We are living in a world where nobody has time for anybody. We live, eat and sleep as if we have to catch a train or flight all the time. We behave almost as if we are about to miss our train or flight and hence do not have time for anyone around us.

I remember my childhood days when all of us in the family waited for each other to have dinner together and then listening to the evening news together on radio. Nowadays every member of the family is busy onto to themselves and do not even have the time to talk to each other. In many cases spouses are not even staying in the same home in the same city. Children also are studying in boarding schools far away from their homes and hence family get togethers every day is a rarity.

Let us look at neighbourhood and friends. Having lived in large metropolises like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, I can say confidently that most of us do not even know our immediate neighbours. We are so busy with our own career and lives that we do not have time for anyone else in our lives leave alone our neighbours. This makes our homes as houses with just a shelter to spend the night for most of us.

Over and above all this, the workplace is increasingly becoming virtual. Relationships in social media are virtual and there is no emotion attached to it. This makes the world a lonely place to live in. Children do not know whom to share their concerns with. Apart from busy parents, even neighbourhood aunts and uncles are not around to listen to them. At the workplace, the competitive world has made us more self centred and we care more for ourselves than others.

Under these circumstances where does the child go ? How can children express their anguish and to whom ? Even adolescents and young adults find it difficult to express themselves. Friends in social media are measured by the likes they post on them rather than their genuine love and concern for you. The best test is when you are not well – physically or mentally – how many of your friends show concern and lend a listening ear.

It is here I would say that it is increasingly important to listen to what is being said and more to what is NOT. We generally are not sensitive to children, adolescents or adults expressing their feelings to anyone. Anyone who shares their emotions are laughed at. This makes them introverts and they say more in actions and deeds than words.

Like an artist may express emotions through their art or a singer through his music. A writer may express through their literature. We need to worry about how common men and women can express themselves. We need to learn the art of listening to the unsaid. It may be easy to comprehend what is being said but many a time a lot remains unsaid and this is where we miss their emotions.

I remember parents asking why you are sad today. Or a friend sitting along with you in silence to comfort you. A teacher enquiring about a child from their expressed emotions rather than words. A neighbour visiting you for no reasons but just to make a statement that they are around for you all the time.

As in the photo above, we need to sense what is being expressed through her expression even if she does not say anything. In these days of the pandemic and the consequent lockdown, people are feeling more lonely than ever before. A listening ear will be of great support.

We need to rekindle our conscience. We need to learn to laugh and cry. We need to listen to what is not being said in words but expressed otherwise.

Let us learn to talk less and listen more.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th June 2020

This too shall pass…

This too shall pass

I found a lot people around me amongst family and friends who were restless during the recent lockdown in most countries. They were uncomfortable to sit at home and refrain from their normal activities of the day. This brought in a feeling of anxiety and insecurity amongst them.

I do agree that this period of the pandemic is a challenge to everyone of us. It is impacting individuals, families, societies and nations at large. While individuals are feeling lonely, families and societies are getting disenchanted. Of course, nations are facing the economic challenges as a fallout of the pandemic and the consequent lockout.

The question before everyone is – “When will this be over ? When will life normalise for everyone ? Nobody knows the answer – not even the public health specialist as this virus is new to everyone. Everyone is trying their best to cope with it. The individuals, families and societies are putting up a brave face and dealing with this unknown challenge.

One thing I am sure of. This too shall pass. Having lived in the coastal part of a state, which faced cyclones every year during the monsoon, I can say with experience that nobody could predict a cyclone accurately. Although I must admit that the predictions of cyclones and storms have improved over the years, it is still an act of God. Nature’s fury is still unpredictable.

Today the forecast of natural disasters are much better and so is the preparedness of the state. A good example is the state of Orissa, which faces atleast one cyclone every year. It affects the coastal belt, where the poorest sections of society have to face the brunt. However, in the last few years, we have seen that the government of Orissa has prepared very well, evacuated the target populations and prevented many human disasters. So, even though it is God sent, human beings have been able to plan and prevent catastrophes consistently.

We need to believe that this too shall pass. After all, all of us as individuals and collectively as a society have misused Nature and may be it is just a gentle reminder to us from Nature to mend our ways. God realises that the citizens of the world have suffered enough due to this pandemic and hence will find ways and means to end it soon either through a vaccine or through herd immunity.

We need to believe in ourselves and commit to ourself both as individuals and communities that we will respect nature much better than we did in the past. We need to believe that this too shall pass and life will be normal again.

Life is a cycle and the good days will follow soon.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th May 2020

Work from home ?

“Work from home” ( WFH) has become a good option for organisations to combat the Covid crisis.  I am aware of many senior leaders, who always believed that work from home meant no work and no control over their teams.  They were not only sceptical of this concept but generally discouraged their team members opting for WFH.  Now with the Covid crisis, these leaders have not only accepted this concept whole heartedly but are willing to accept it as the new normal.

While  WFH is being lauded as the the way to go into the future, it has its own limitations.  We need to be fully aware of the pros and cons of working from home. Let us first look at the positives of this concept :

a. Flexibility :  It provides flexibility to the individual and the organisation in terms of time and place of work and also enables individuals to manage their day accordingly.

b. Time-saving : It saves a lot of time especially for employees working in the big metropolises of the world.  The commute time is generally waste of time and energy to say the least.  This option ensures that people do not waste their time in commute.

c. Family time :  Employees tend to spend more time with the family in this option as they are physically at home even during working hours and thereby can lend a helping hand to their spouses and family members

d. Cost saving :  It could be a potential cost saving measure for organisations in terms of infrastructure and real estate costs.  A part of this could be passed on to employees in terms of their salary and benefits.

e. Work-life balance :  It can promote better work life balance if we are able to manage it optimally at our end and managers are supportive of the same.

Now let us look at the negatives of this concept :

a. Over-working& Under-working :  Employees tend to work more and thereby get more exhausted mentally due to calls and video conferences.  With time zone differences, it could end up eating into personal time of employees. On the other hand, some employees may misuse this option and work less too.

b. Impact on relationships :  The WFH option could result in impacting workplace relationships as conflicts cannot be easily resolved through web chats, phone calls or video calls.  Face to face interactions help in resolving conflicts at the workplace.

c. Family relationships :  Over-working and mixed priorities of work and home could end up in avoidable family conflicts between spouses and other family members as well.  This could result in misunderstandings, which otherwise may not occur in reality.

d. Work life balance :  While most people would think that work life balance could be better, in reality it could be the other way around.  Family members may start believing that they were better off when you were going to the work place rather than working from home.

e. Team work :  Team work at the workplace could be unplanned causality of the WFH option.  When team members do not meet face to face or talk to each other, their productivity is likely to dip and conflicts may increase.

Having looked at the pros and cons of the WFH option, it may be prudent for organisations to take a balanced view of the same post the Covid crisis.  It is neither desirable to swing from one end of the pendulum to the other and make all employees work from home nor stop this as an option when we get back to our old ways of working.  It could be provided as a flexible option and gainfully utilised by employees and organisations to strike the right balance between employees’ needs and organisational priorities.

It may be useful to remember that “Work from Home”(WFH) should be a means to an end and not an end in itself.

S Ramesh Shankar

26th May 2020

How big is our heart ?

Spot your heart

I have always wondered as to how big is our heart ? Is it linked to the wealth we accumulate in life or is it the other way around. The current Covid crisis has proved to me that in most cases generosity of our heart is inversely proportional to the wealth we have in life.

I would like to share a few stories to validate my hypothesis. First the heart breaking story of an expat staying in a gated community who asked as to why we should pay salaries for housekeeping staff when they could not turn up during the lockout ? I was stunned. An expat who may be paying almost a lakh of rupees even as rent every month to stay in a villa is questioning a few thousands as monthly salary for a house keeping staff in a gated community.

Interestingly, he is not alone in this attitude to life. I have heard that a lot of residents staying in posh localities in Mumbai and Bangalore have not paid their domestic maids not only for the period of the lockout but even for March when would have worked for most of the month. My wife and me called all the staff who worked with us in Mumbai and this is what they shared. The best thing was they did not ask for any help and on the contrary enquired about our well being and were reluctant to take any voluntary support from our side for their sustenance.

Another senior consultant who works for a top consulting firm and possibly earns in crores a year did not pay Rs. 1000 collected for staff recognition from each villa to reward them for their yeoman and selfless service during the lockdown. This gentleman ( although I am reluctant to call him a gentleman) is a religious fanatic and invites Godmen and God women to his residence once in a year to show to the community how religious he is. Is this what all our religions teach us ? A true question to ponder !

On the other end of the spectrum, I hear and read of countless inspiring men and women from ordinary walks of life who are willing to give their life earnings to serve others during this crisis. The story of an auto driver in Pune who used his life long savings of Rs. 2 lacs ( saved for his marriage) to feed migrant workers in his city and even postponed his marriage and equally supported by his fiancé for this noble cause.

You hear of the farmer in Kerala who donates all his produce of vegetables and fruits every day to the needy as he feels he can do his little bit for the under privileged.

A temple pujari in Chennai is making masks and distributing free to the common people since he does not have any work as temples are closed and he feels he can contribute a bit to serve others.

You hear the children in a society in Mumbai cleaning all the cars every day and contributing their earnings to the well being of those who need that money. Every such story teaches me a simple lesson in life. You do not need money to be generous and caring to others in life. What you need is a big heart ? Our heart size is not determined by the wealth we accumulate in life but but the love and care we get and we give others.

A small deed to even one person around you without expecting anything in return will do a world of good to us. We need not share photos or selfies in social media for the little things we do in life. It is like the famous quote of Oscar Wild who said – ” We are not born in this world to keep account of the small things we do.”

Time and day to start is today and now. A small gesture to even one person around you will change their world. Try it.

S Ramesh Shankar

21st May 2020

The silence of the new workplace

New office

Man is a social animal. We realise it today more than anytime in our lives in the past. We are humans and we need to be socially connected to survive and grow. Loneliness can be killing and it can be the worst punishment for any person at home or at work.

If we recall all the days we are staying alone at home, we realise how difficult it is when we get back home from work. We cannot speak to the TV, laptop or the fridge. We yearn for people to be around us. It is then we realise the value of our family members, who are there for us all the time and surround us with warmth and good emotions, unconditionally without expecting anything in return.

Now, as we enter the new workplace after the lockdown, we realise that there are less people around at work. Further, they seem to be avoiding each other and hardly speak to one another. The scare of the virus is taking away our natural urge to interact with each other. What should we do in such a scary environ ?

We could have meetings around a table maintaining the physical distance, covering our faces with masks, sanitising our hands and still talking to each other. While we need to take all necessary precautions to prevent the virus from infecting us and we infecting others, we need not stop talking to people around us. If not anything else, we can smile at one another.

Here I would like to share a real life story to emphasise that if our intent is good and we want to help others no virus can attack us ever. One of my close friends is an orthopaedic surgeon. He was detected with cancer some years back and the oncologists had predicted that even after the best treatment he may not survive for long. This doctor apart from serving his patients volunteers his time training students, professionals and others on “how to live life ethically ?”. He has survived his cancer for many years now and has defied all predictions by his treating oncologists.

I am not for one saying that we can neglect the virus or the cancer, which may endanger our lives. I am only professing that if we continue to take precautions, we can still continue to relate to people and interact with them. If we cannot walk across to everyone at work, nothing prevents us from picking up the phone and enquiring someone’s well being. If our intent is good and we are there to help our customers, suppliers or employees or society at large, no virus can touch us. Our body will produce nature immunes to deal with any virus including Covid.

Having said that, a virus or cancer can attack any of us irrespective of all our precautions and good intentions. In that case, we have to go for treatment and deal with it like any other disease.

I would say the new workplace provides us a great opportunity to build on our strengths and get over our weaknesses. Our strength is relationships and we need to continue to thrive on it to get things done. Our limitation is our productivity as we tend to waste a lot of time in gossip or unnecessary interactions. This is a welcome change to get over those weaknesses and improve our productivity to compete with the best in the world.

A new office meeting room may look like the photo above. That may be the new normal and we need to adapt to it

I personally feel that if we build on our relationships and create the most productive workplace in the world, no country in the world will be able to compete with us.

Opportunity is knocking at our doors today. Let us grab it with both our hands.

S Ramesh Shankar

Addiction or de-addiction – choice is ours always ?

All the liquor shops were closed across the country during the lockdown and the lovers of the spirit had a difficult time.  They had stocked enough but it was not good enough as they could not anticipate the two extensions.  This may be equally true for the smokers.  While I am told that both alcohol and cigarettes were available in the black market but it was almost unaffordable for the common man.

The question I ask myself as to why people get addicted to alcohol or cigarettes ?  Being a teetotaller and a non smoker, some may wonder whether I am competent to write on this subject. Luckily for me there are many in my family and friends’ circles who swear by alcohol and the cigarette.  My wife has been a counsellor in a de-addiction centre at the beginning of her career.

I would like to reflect on why people get addicted to alcohol, cigarettes or drugs ?  It is not that people who are born in families addicted to any of these only fall victims to this addiction.  It is common people coming from all walks of life who fall prey to this disease called addiction.

We all go through crests and troughs in life.  Some of us are able to cope with it while others get stressed out.  It may be for reasons beyond their control or their ability to bear the stress.  It is not easy to deal with stresses of life at different stages.  As an adolescent, one tends to be rebellious and wants to prove to the world how one is different and can stand out in society.

As we grow up as adults, we are ashamed to share our stress with anyone and thus find it difficult to cope with it.  In today’s world, where joint families have paved their way to nuclear families and neighbourhoods are no longer a wall of social support, it the the individual alienation in society which is the root cause of the problem.  While we have become comfortable to go to a doctor to discuss all our medical issues, it is still a stigma to go to a psychiatrist or a counsellor to discuss about our stresses and strains in life.

In today’s digital world, human connections are diminishing.  We do not even know our neighbours leave alone distant friends or relatives.  We do not live in joint families and hence do not have parents, elders, uncles or aunts to share our agonies.  The virtual world is a make believe world and we do not realise it unless reality strikes us hard.  We are proud to think that we have hundreds of friends on social media but realise that there is nobody around us when we get admitted to a hospital to attend to us.

It is in this state of mind, we believe that alcohol, cigarettes or drugs can cure us of depression.  We imagine that a drink in the weekend or a smoke at the end of a stressful day will relive us of all pains in life.  This may be psychologically true for the individual concerned but the reality is different.  The best of alcohol or cigarettes or drugs do not have any magic properties to help us get over our miseries in life.  We take time to realise that we are the creators of own miseries in life.

It is our attitude to life and living, which can make a difference.  The day we realise that we do not need spirits to lift us up in life, we can bring a change.  All of us go through similar trials and tribulations in life.  While some of us are able to cope with it, others succumb to the addiction of these artificial support systems.  The spirit, cigarette or drug is like a ventilator to a patient in distress.  The day the patient realises that their life is over the day the ventilator plug is pulled out is the day, they are willing to fight back in lie.

The day we are willing to give up any form of addiction in life is the day we realise that we are the makers of own destiny.  No force on earth can make us happy or sad in any situation.  No stress in life can make us crumble like ashes.  It is our attitude to life, which makes all the difference.  The day anyone realises the harmful effects of any addiction is the beginning of their journey to freedom from addiciton.

I am not trying to be a moralist here.  I have nothing against people drinking or smoking.  What I am against is the belief that drinking or smoking can cure us of all our stresses in life.  It never can.  It is our ability to face a crisis head on and deal with it, which will make all the difference to our lives.  It is like a smoker can give up smoking one day in a fraction of a second when they decide they want. to.  On the other hand, a smoker who pledges to give up slowly and gradually ends up smoking all his life.

It can be addiction to coffee or tea as in the photo above and not necessarily cigarettes or alcohol.

So, it is upto us to decide what we want to be.  Every human being is capable of dealing with their own stresses and strains in life.  It is upto us to wake up one morning and say that ” I am in control of myself and I can lead a life of my own”.  It is then addiction can transform into de-addiction.

The day to start is today and the time is now.

Why delay ?

S Ramesh Shankar

6th May 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plight of decision makers in a crisis

Pond Heron

I have always wondered how difficult it would be for decision makers to make decisions in a crisis. The current Covid crisis is not an exception. Every country is trying to deal with the crisis in their best possible way. However the citizens are unhappy with the decisions being taken by their respective governments.

In a democracy, it is much more difficult to take decisions as compared to other forms of governments. Here, if you decide you are criticised and if you don’t, you are criticised. Either way, there will be people waiting for you to take a decision and then they are ready to pounce on you as to how bad a decision it was.

I sometimes wonder if these critiques ever put themselves in the shoes of those who decide. If there is a lockdown, they say livelihood is lost and if there isn’t one they say lives are lost. Those in governance are finding the right balance between protecting lives and saving livelihoods.

The beauty of a situation like this is that everyone becomes an expert on everything. We have common men and women advising us on how to deal with preventive health to deal with the virus. Whereas, even doctors and health workers are finding it difficult to deal with an unknown virus.

We have arm chair economists advising us on how to revive the economy and save livelihoods at the cost of lives. Some business honchos have even gone to the extent of saying that the economic downturn will result in more loss of lives than the Covid crisis.

The governments in the centre and the states are trying their best to decide what they think is in the best interest of its citizens. However, we all are restless and are ready to pounce on any decision taken by the state or the centre in our country. We do not realise that the people we have elected to take decisions supported by smart and knowledgable bureaucrats have more information than we have to decide on matters to deal with this crisis.

While we all have become public health experts, economists, administrators and futurologists, we forget our duties as citizens. We are the first to violate a guideline set by our local government on the pretext of being educated and knowing what we are doing. We go out to buy things which are not essential or demand for services from others risking their own lives for our comfort.

We do not realise how difficult it is for the urban and the rural poor. The situation is tough especially for the urban poor and most developed cities today run on the work of the migrant labourers. As citizens, we need to find ways to support these people during this crisis and not sit back and blame only the government in power for not doing anything. Are we capable of taking care of our security staff, our maids, our gardener’s, housekeeping staff and so on. If each of us commit to take care of people who touch our lives every day then the problem is simpler for the government to handle.

In a crisis, the most important factor to remember is that there is only one leader and all of us have to be diligent followers. Like in the Army they say, the word of the commander is their religion. So, we need to behave. We have elected governments at the centre and the states and we need to trust our people in power including politicians and bureaucrats to deal with this crisis effectively.

Let us learn to be trusted followers rather than quack experts in every field especially in a crisis. If I can put myself in the shoes of those in governance, I may realise how difficult it is to decide. I am an office bearer in our community association and can tell you that it is very difficult to deal with community decisions in a crisis like this. We have only 25 families living in my community. Imagine someone deciding on behalf of a billion people or even a few millions in a state.

As in the photo above, it is wiser to sit at home and admire the pond heron eating fish in your pond rather than sit in your arm chair and criticise the decision makers in a crisis.

Trust is key in a crisis. Follwership is our duty. Let us empathise and appreciate the difficult role of the decision makers by being self disciplined and following whatever guidelines are given to us.

Let us make a difference by being positive always and being enablers rather than detractors in a crisis situation.

S Ramesh Shankar

2nd May 2020

How to reduce employee cost without reducing employee numbers ???

I have always wondered as to why organizations tend to focus on employee cost reduction at the first instance under any crisis situation! While employee cost in most organizations especially in manufacturing sector will be a negligible as compared to material cost, the tendency is to focus on how to reduce employees in order to tide over any crisis.

    I was reminded of the famous British management thinker Charles Handy.  He once spoke in Delhi for the Economic Times summit and shared a beautiful formula, which can be depicted as follows :

                                              Business Success = ½# x 2*x 3$

Note ; # reduce employees by half, * double your sales and $ profits will treble.

He explained that most CEOs believe that in any crisis situation if they are able to reduce employees by half, their sales will double and their profits will treble.  He further went to state that as long as CEO’s remember that they could also fall in the half of employees who are let go, they would take the right decisions for their organizations.  This is the bitter truth even today.

     The Covid crisis will impact businesses adversely.  Many CEOs would think of ways and means of cutting employee numbers so that they can tide over this business downturn.  While that may be an easy way out, CEO’s may have to realize that employees win customers and employee loyalty sustains organizations.  With this premise in mind, I thought I could share ideas of how employee cost could be optimized even without having to reduce employee numbers.

    In this article, I will attempt to share a few ideas of employee cost reduction without having to reduce manpower :

a.     Employee Salary reduction :  While many organizations may consider this a taboo, it is fine in a crisis situation to reduce salaries rather than people losing jobs.  It has to start from the CEO and go downwards and not the other way around.  If possible, we should spare the lowest level of employees in this exercise.  

b.     Salary structure review :  This could another way of linking salary more to performance than level or designation.  Further looking at fixed to variable pay, review increments, promotions linked to role, salary bands etc.  There are multiple ways to do this and can be done without employees losing jobs.

c.     Benefits Review :  There are various benefits which organizations evolve over a period of time.  This is the time to review the same and monetise wherever possible or eliminate them.  It could range from leave, holidays, copay in medical insurance and so on.  There are again varied ways of dealing with this without impacting employees in any direct way.

d.     Review Organization structure:  It is the right time to make the organization leaner and more effective.  Invariably, in most organizations, layers get added just to create positions for people to be promoted or someone’s ego to be satisfied.  Every part of the organization can be reviewed and all unnecessary levels can be eliminated.  This will make it more efficient and responsive to customers.

e.     Employee involvement & engagement :  This is the best time to harness the full potential of employees.  Those who do the work know best where we could improve and reduce cost.  So, if we are able to find ways and means of involving employees in idea generation and execution, cost reduction can easily be achieved in different aspects of work in all functions.  We need to suitably reward employees for the same linking it to the savings accrued and the benefits to the organization.

f.      Hidden subsidies :  Organizations tend to build a lot of hidden subsidies which are neither visible to the employees nor to the organization.  It may be time to review all of them and again monetise them or eliminate them if they don’t serve the purpose for which it is created.  This could include canteen, transport, concierge, travel allowances etc. 

g.     Review office spaces :  Real estate is one of the biggest cost amongst all overheads.  Now that even the sceptics have accepted “Work from Home” as an option, it may be worthwhile to review the need for large office spaces and reduce cost.  We could consider 50% of field sales and service staff to work from home and visit offices may be once a week to submit claims or follow up on issues.  We could review offices, factories, guest houses and the like and rationalize the same.  We could also eliminate fixed seats for employees and make flexible offices spaces as a way of life. 

Employee will not mind any of these changes provided we communicate effectively and authentically.  Any employee will appreciate that it is better to take a cut in salary or benefits rather than lose a job.  If employees are told that all these measures will ensure job security for all, it will be highly appreciated.  The success of all these measures will lie in effective planning, communication, execution and rigorous reviews.

I thought about all this with only one objective of saving jobs.  I will be happy to consult with any organization pro-bono to plan and execute any or all of the above ideas.  I can detail them out for you in consultation with your internal teams so as to customize it for your organization.

I need not be paid a single rupee for this service.  If the organization is able to save jobs, my mission is accomplished.  If the organization saves employee cost without reducing its number of employees and is able to quantify savings, I will be delighted.

At the end, if organizations achieve their goals, we can find ways and means of contributing to my social cause of “Eradicating preventable blindness amongst children” and I will be highly indebted to them always.

I have committed to find ways and means of giving back to society in the second innings of my life and saving employee jobs in a crisis could be one way of accomplishing my mission.