Article: Aadesh Goyal, CHRO, Tata Communications on navigating through 2021

Strategic HR

Aadesh Goyal, CHRO, Tata Communications on navigating through 2021

The future of work will be flexible in nature, says Aadesh Goyal, Chief Human Resources Officer, Tata Communications. In a conversation with People Matters, he shares his predictions for the coming year and how he plans to navigate 2021.
Aadesh Goyal, CHRO, Tata Communications on navigating through 2021

Aadesh Goyal, Chief Human Resources Officer for Tata Communications, has over 25 years of experience in P&L Management, Human Resources, Operations, Information Technology, Corporate Communications and Program Management and has held global leadership roles in these functions across multiple geographies.

He joined Tata Communications in February 2010 from PeopleStrong HR Services where he was the Chairman and CEO. Prior to PeopleStrong, Aadesh was part of the start-up team of Aricent/Hughes Software Systems where he spent 16 years in a variety of roles including Global Head of HR, CEO of its BPO Business, and Head of the Gurgaon center.

In this interview with People Matters, he shares his views on how Tata Communications has come through 2020 and where he believes the future of work is taking us.

What has changed for the company amid this pandemic? What are the lessons you learned? Share a few insights.

The pandemic has made one thing clear—going forward everything will be virtual. Organizations that embrace digital and transform themselves are the ones fit to survive. Interestingly, while organizations have always looked at digital transformation from a customer perspective, now they need to look at it from an employee perspective—prioritizing digitization, automation, and innovation for the employee experience. 

At Tata Communications, over the years, we have built an intelligent digital platform for enabling HR operations such as on-boarding, induction, learning, career development, workforce planning, hiring, etc., and all of this is now seamlessly managed virtually. We have hired employees across the globe during the lockdown period. The entire process right from onboarding to inducting the new hires and assimilating them into their teams and culture of the company is being performed digitally.

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How do you think this crisis will change the way we work? Will more of us be remote?

Every crisis offers an opportunity for change and COVID-19 is one such catalyst that has redefined the future of work. Though remote working practices have gone from being an exception to the norm across a spectrum of industries, the immediate implications of this crisis differ greatly across sectors and the medium to long-term outlook for productivity and the nature of changing working practices will be just as varied. Some industries, such as tech firms, consulting, call centers, financial operations are able to embrace remote working in a way that is simply not possible for sectors, such as manufacturing, construction, production, R&D. For a range of office-based service businesses, a reduction in floor space rental is a likely outcome of the crisis as firms integrate remote working for a rotating segment of their teams.

But the future of work will be quite flexible in nature. Only a limited proportion of employees will work from the office full-time. Most employees will have a remote working arrangement and work from both, home and office. As such, offices are likely to be redesigned for collaboration and innovation.  

Offices are also likely to leverage technology like IoT or detection units to manage human density at specific office spaces and maybe even to detect microbes or possible health threats. Overall, the sum total of all these transformations will create a work culture that is flexible and responsive to necessity; one that is customizable and has the ability to evolve and reconfigure in order to manage the larger problem at hand.

Can you share some insights on some of your initiatives around employee wellness, productivity, and engagement?

With the majority of the population working from home, it is very important to spread positivity and promote a good work-life balance. The main objective now is to not only keep the workforce engaged and involved but also to make sure that every employee is appreciated, motivated, and able to deal with the stress of the current circumstances. 

Some of our early initiatives include live mindfulness sessions beginning from March itself when the outbreak spread. This is really well received across all our regions, with most sessions being overbooked. In fact, given the success of these sessions, we extended it to other Tata companies, in addition to running sessions for some of our partners as well.

Recently, we also launched our ‘TCare program’ to help our employees build the right skills and internalize wellness habits. The TCare program offers a host of well-being initiatives for employees across the globe with the aim to support them in their efforts towards achieving holistic well-being, inclusive of physical, mental & emotional health and well-being.

Furthermore, to uplift employee experience and to facilitate employees with everything instantly and from one place, we launched Eva, an all-in-one app. Eva provides COVID-19 related information as well as allows employees to conduct their learning sessions from there. 

We also have an employee assistance program in place that gives employees access to professional counseling services that are completely confidential.

Do you feel confident in your business post-COVID-19? What are your top priorities moving forward in 2021?

On the employee front, we have commenced work on building a talent base that is equipped to be relevant and ready for future needs. We encourage a culture of learning and curiosity. Employees have the opportunity to learn new skills, upskill, or learn supplementary skills through a broad range of training courses offered through partnerships with Coursera and various training partners on our Tata Communications Learning Academy platform.

Technology has played such a crucial role in the working environment that the entire organization design is being re-imagined We need to think of the organization as an online marketplace, that is intelligent and functions as a platform. One that is designed to support the needs of all stakeholders. For example, an organization would need people who can play the role of a product manager, they need people who are savvy in technology—not just someone who has a good understanding but someone who can leverage technology. Multiple functions need to come together to provide a seamless experience to users.  

We are also focusing on creating a consumer-grade experience in the workplace. Most of the human capital management platforms that have been built so far do not have a consumer-grade experience. And hence it is important that HR teams become better technologists and leverage technology to drive meaningful engagement and experiences for employees. 

With tech changing the workplace, what skills should leaders learn to prepare people for the future?

The growing influence of technology will enable hyper-personalization and there will be more focus on employee experience. With remote working becoming the new global reality across industries, advances in AI, cloud and other technologies will help increase connection and collaboration within teams and organizations. These are skills that the workforce of the future should be well equipped with. 

In addition, across industries, we are seeing four distinct types of workforce emerge. Today, you can have talent on-demand, with more flexibility and a sharper edge. Organizations need to recognize these new streams which consist of 

1. Full-time employees

2. Part-time employees

3. Freelancers

4. Gig workers

When companies are experimenting or innovating or undergoing a transformation, they require expertise which the existing team may not have or cannot afford, or the company’s needs could be sporadic. In such instances, an organization can look at each of these streams and the value they will bring to the table. A well-defined workforce planning platform benefits both an organization and the worker.

The pandemic has taught us that disruptive change will only continue to increase in the years ahead. What is the biggest opportunity that COVID-19 presents? How can businesses seize this opportunity?

The current times have forced organizations to rethink their strategies and become more agile and creative in order to survive and thrive. It is hence important for organizations to review their employee policies, ranging from remote working, employee benefits to personal time off. This is where a people-first approach matters. At Tata Communications, we have always been driven by the larger organizational purpose of serving our people and the communities in which we operate.

As employees around the world get used to working from home and using new technologies to collaborate better and come together virtually, it will change the way organizations operate. If done correctly, with the right level of employee engagement and enough collaboration within the teams and the company, this could have a significant positive impact on productivity.

Read more such stories from the January 2021 issue of our e-magazine on 'Outlook 2021’

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Topics: Strategic HR, #Outlook2021, #Trends

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