20 Dec 2021, 14:23 — 10 min read
The human is not a resource but a possibility, says spiritual Guru Sadhguru. I urge every HR professional to look at it the same way. HR professionals should feel blessed that they have been given the opportunity as part of their profession to look at possibilities among the people working with them and to shape those possibilities.
When looking at the evolving role of HR, we should look at the ecosystem around us as we are part it. If the ecosystem is evolving in a different way, can we continue to shape our people in the same way? Everything that happened in the last two years has shown us that there are possibilities that we have not looked at.
Possibilities have to be looked at from the point of view of the country, business, economy and people. However, often in the process of looking at things from an economic or business point of view, we have to do things which may not be good for people. However, I’m optimistic about the future and the possibilities it holds. Business will come back because there are billions of people in India who consume. Furthermore, the government will put trillions of dollars into the ecosystem, money which will flow into the stock market, infrastructure, capacity building and capex. All this will eventually need more people.
When looking at the evolving role of HR, we should look at the ecosystem around us as we are part it. If the ecosystem is evolving in a different way, can we continue to shape our people in the same way?
However, the role of people in the next one and a half years will change. The state of the economy has compelled many organisations to transform their business models. When the pandemic hit, many were compelled to cut costs to survive which involved letting go of employees--In some cases almost by 30% to 40%. When business revived to almost 85% of 2019-2020 levels the organisations managed to do so with 60-70% of the people. This raises questions about productivity. Were our people really trained to deliver the business we required? Or were we sitting around with fat which was making us less profitable? So clearly, cost structures have changed and they may not come back to the original. It is important that HR professionals understand the business scenario to be able to work on people possibilities.
Many CHROs had to go through tremendous stress because never in their long and lustrous careers have been compelled to take business calls. From a situation where they only knew how to hire they now had to fire. A lot is spoken about the mental health of employees, but we should also speak about the mental wellbeing of HR professionals. HR professionals need to learn to face the next situation. They need to reset. From where should the reset start?
Understanding the new work dynamics: The suffering during the lockdown has changed the employees’ outlook towards life and employment. Many don’t want to do a full-time job anymore. They are willing to work for some time, make their monies and do something they like. They prefer renting to buying properties as they don’t know where they will be working or staying next. Work from home has actually become work from anywhere. It is important for the HR professionals to understand that this is going to be the cohort that will be working for the organisation. From being used to managing employees who work from four walls of office or stores they need to deal with employees working from 5000 walls of different rooms or by a riverside or a valley. They need to accept this new environment where an employee will not meet them face to face.
Work from home is actually work from anywhere
Understanding the new last mile: Online is taking up a much larger share in businesses. It may even go up to 10% to 15% in the next few years. Online has changed the last mile connect with the consumer. We have been training people on dealing with consumers, harnessing relationships and ensuring that we bring lifetime value. Now, suddenly that portion of the offline is gone.
Today, the last mile connect with the consumer is not happening through our employees, but through delivery companies on contract. And the person delivering a package doesn’t even know for which company he is working. So the big responsibility of training and skilling people to connect with the last mile customer is gone as also the last mile emotional connect with the consumer.
The EQ built up for relationship and brand building of people to people as employees and as customers is disappearing because of the changing ecosystem. This is going to be a big challenge. With more and more of the business going online, how can HR create the possibility of building a brand that has an emotional connect with a customer whom no one is meeting?
Delivery has become the last mile for most retail businesses today
Understanding the new skill requirement: With delivery becoming the last mile, the skills required for last mile are moving away from business skills to transportation skills--how fast can one manoeuvre a motorcycle and complete 20 deliveries a day. It is also leading to a change in the organisation’s structure.
A shopfloor employee has two supervisors, one floor manager and one store manager. But a team of 1,000 delivery boys is being managed by a map on a machine and AI. Which means the bottom is becoming flat. Most of these delivery people are undergraduates. So HR professionals now have a workforce that is undereducated and unskilled. The CEO of Walmart Doug McMillon started as a loader in a Walmart warehouse. I started as s store manager. How will HR professionals ensure that a delivery person can become a CEO in 20 years’ time? That is their challenge as people possibilities managers.
Understand deeper challenges: The other part of the story is if most people in the head office are going to come from the side or top with no experience of the last mile pain, or consumer connect, how will they relate to the 90 per cent of the people?
As people possibilities professionals have you trained your staff to relate to the front line delivery person who does 10 deliveries a day? Earlier, sales figures could be procured by a call to the store manager. Now a system reveals that information. One can literally track every delivery person to his current location in real-time. We are invading his privacy and he is under tremendous stress because he has to finish many deliveries on time. This is the unprecedented change that’s happening in the environment and it requires a great evolution.
Another challenge is the breed which is emerging. Children aged 8 and 10 are being taught to code. The belief is the future is going to come from here. What will brick and mortar retailers do if the last mile of online is not connected to them, and the last mile of brick and mortar is shrinking? Front-end roles are evolving. Today, a store employee is dealing with the customer in a different way because of omni-channel, end of aisle and WhatsApp selling. His ability to understand a 100,000+ SKUs is very different because in online a customer sees a 100,000 SKUs.
Changing themselves: HR professionals first and foremost need to get mentally geared to change themselves as per the changes happening in the environment and ask themselves which human possibilities they will be able to enable. What are the possibilities that they have to go through themselves? Irrespective of their seniority, they need to look at the mirror and realign themselves to fit their shape in that of the mirror for the evolving possibilities as the shape of the mirror is changing.
Imagine the organisation of 2025… create a structure for it…a structure about evolving possibilities in 2025. In it, imagine the roles of employees. You may find that many of your current employees do not have a role unless they up-skill themselves. Be honest and talk to them. Inform them about the roles that will cease to exist and others that will be coming up for which they could mould themselves.
HR professionals should look at themselves and at the possibilities in their organisation 5 years down the line. See if the gap can be bridged with current employees. This will help employees be successful. If they are successful, the organisation will be successful. If everybody is successful, you, the HR professional will be a successful people possibilities person. Everybody will come to you because you are going to create possibilities for them. And you will have gone away from the fact that human is a resource and realise that human is a possibility.
Also read: Tranform or be transformed
Article & image source: STOrai Magazine. Authored by B S Nagesh who is the Founder of a Not for Profit organisation called TRRAIN (Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India). He is the Non-Executive Chairman of Shoppers Stop Limited. He was inducted into the World Retail Hall of Fame 2008 at the World Retail Congress 2008 conducted in Barcelona. He is the recipient of Hellen Keller award for being a role model in creating livelihood for Persons with Disability. He is also nominated as an Ashoka Fellow.
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