Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Working class heroes: On putting people first

Against the backdrop of these unfamiliar conditions, the second annual Forbes India-Kincentric Best Employers study assumes significance, and while most employers' concern may well have been purely altruistic, a superiour employee experiences is good for business

Brian Carvalho
Published: Mar 15, 2021 09:49:35 AM IST
Updated: Mar 15, 2021 09:53:38 AM IST

Working class heroes: On putting people first

Safety of the workforce, their (financial) security, and (emotional) stability were top priorities for employers who genuinely put employees before the organisation’s growth prospects during the Covid-19 pandemic. The concern may well have been purely altruistic in many cases but, even if it wasn’t, employee care has a pragmatic side to it, too: A superior employee experience can result in a better customer experience, which is, of course, good for business.

As the needle now shifts to the vaccine rollout, company managements are awaiting the governmental go-ahead to procure vaccines for their workforce. Some have said they will cover the cost of vaccinating employees and their families. Till they get that green signal, companies would be encouraging those eligible to take the shot, which would also pave the way for them to work from offices or factories.

The pan-India vaccine rollout comes roughly a year after the Covid-19-triggered lockdowns began. Work-from-home became a norm, changing the dynamics for employee and employer. Procuring vaccines for workers may go a long way for employers in showing their caring side, but equally important is how they engaged with the workforce in the early days of the pandemic.

It’s against the backdrop of these unfamiliar conditions that the second annual Forbes India-Kincentric Best Employers study assumes significance. Much of what goes into becoming an employer of choice—opportunities for growth, performance culture et al—became routine as more important characteristics took centre stage. Engagement became more crucial in this critical period, with the spotlight on empowerment, motivation and creating an enabling work environment via collaboration, technology and innovative organisational structures. As the Kincentric team behind the study puts it: “The Best Employer organisations continue to maintain their strong employer brand by delivering on employee promises of manageable work-related stress and availability of opportunities to gain new skills. What differentiated the best employers from the rest this year was their targeted interventions around employee well-being.”

The 2020 Best Employers study covers 50 companies from which close to 430,000 employees participated. From these 50, 15 made the final cut after rigorous examination by a four-member jury. The winners stood out for, among other things, tailoring initiatives to suit the situation. DHL, for instance, flagged off ‘Engage More’, to involve employees and their families with hobby-led activations and workshops. Then, Allstate India started ‘open-box sessions’ with employees across all levels. These sessions, with no fixed agenda, are platforms for sharing family experiences and stress points.

Also significant is how employees respond when they develop the faith that the organisation is empathetic to their condition. At Bayer, for instance, as recessionary conditions prevailed, workers stepped up to the plate and took charge. A Bayer representative tells Forbes India: “It was as if employees wanted to take personal responsibility during the Covid-19 crisis to make sure that we as a company did not drop the ball.”

From the onset of the pandemic, Forbes India has been hot on the trail of India’s strides in vaccine development and manufacturing. This issue also has two vaccine-related stories that are must-reads. One is on the role of the private sector in the Great Indian Vaccine Rollout to cover millions of citizens. And the other is on Krishna Ella, a farmer’s son who has given India its first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine.

Brian Carvalho
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id:@Brianc_Ed

(This story appears in the 26 March, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)