2020 will remain in our memories for a long time to come. It is the year the world faced uncertainties and challenges at an unprecedented level. Individuals, communities, businesses and countries across the world plunged into uncertainty. The oft-used term VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, became too real for comfort. As the world limps back towards some semblance of normalcy, business leaders are restlessly looking to shift focus from survival to growth. There is a need today, greater than ever, for organisations to reconfigure, reinvent, rethink and re-energise. How to Survive in the VUCA world?
As businesses faced the new reality in the first half of 2020, their ability to be deliberate in their choices, rapid in their thinking and nimble in their execution was tested to the hilt. Most organisations demonstrated agility by acting quickly and adapting swiftly to the changing needs of the workforce. The Best Employer study of 2020 shows that in the race for survival, most companies did a splendid job of addressing their employees’ basic needs of safety, stability, and security during the first phase of the Covid-19 crisis. As those needs evolved, organisations adopted a more sophisticated approach to enter the next phase.
By emphasising on Safety, Security and Stability for employees, some organisations placed their employees over the business. Care and concern shown for employees became the core driver for business growth. Organisations have clearly moved away from the paradigm of treating employees as mere resources and moved towards a far more sustainable approach—better employee experience results in better customer experience and business outcomes. Our research indicates that organisations that have a highly engaged workforce show 2.6 times shareholder return as compared to organisations that are able to averagely engage their employees.
During this year’s study, Kincentric had the opportunity to discuss with multiple organisations about their response to the pandemic. Organisations displayed care and concern for their employees through three ways. Safety:
Organisations had to take strong measures to ensure physical safety and wellbeing of their employees. Many organisations went beyond ensuring physical safety, by providing mental wellbeing check-ups, emotional support and financial wellbeing assistance. Security:
Stories of employees being let go during these testing times were not unheard of. However, most organisations only took these drastic steps when it was absolutely necessary. What was also important was how communication was managed during this time and how organisations supported employees who were let go off to find better opportunities elsewhere. Stability:
While both work and professional lives were rapidly changing for everybody, bringing about a sense of stability was arguably the most difficult aspect. Work-life balance became a concern as work lives started to intrude into personal lives and spaces. Organisations brought about some level of stability by allowing and encouraging personal lives to become part of the work life.
How to Strive–From survival to building a new foundation
The Best Employers of 2020 demonstrated an outstanding survival spirit and a mindset to keep striving. In a difficult year, these organisations maintained their engagement level at 82 percent (compared to 81 percent last year) by keeping a relentless focus on empowering employees, encouraging managers to motivate teams and creating an enabling work environment through collaboration, nimble technology and effective organisational structures. 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 wellbeing.
How to Thrive in the year to come
Best Employers have created a strong enabling work environment for their employees that values diversity, employee well-being and thrives on agile work experiences. Employees have also stepped up to the challenge of the pandemic and contributed to the maximum. The focus now needs to be a lot in amplifying people outcomes. Some areas that require focus would be recognising performance through monetary and non-monetary means, making recognisable efforts for talent retention and attraction and making sure strong performers have clear and visible career opportunities.
The data clearly shows that the Rest of the Best organisations are catching up fast with the Best in class. The way forward for them to excel even more and bridge the remaining gap is by working to create a sense of excitement among employees about the future of the organisation. For this, they may want to look at providing resources to develop ideas for the long-term success of the business. This, coupled with providing freedom to employees to try out new things, would set them up for success for the future.
While 2020 was a tough year, it made us rethink the way we work and live outside of work. Organisations and their people have come out stronger, have shown tremendous resilience to handle adversity and demonstrated care for one another. While social distancing has become the norm, we have all come closer in newer ways. It is now time to rebuild our organisations with a strong foundation that will be sustainable and yet agile to respond effectively and quickly to any crisis. Padmaja Sreenivas is National Lead, Nikhil Shankar is Consultant, and Sreyansha Bhattacharya is Project Manager, Kincentric Best Employers IndiaMethodology
The Best Employer journey started in India 21 years ago. In the last five years alone, over 4,000 organisations across 68 industries have taken part in the Best Employers study helping decode what sets apart some organisations from others.
A total of 50 organisations from 10 key industries representing approximately 429,000 employee responses participated in the Kincentric Best Employers India 2020 study.
A robust evaluation framework based on the principles of ‘Intent-Design-Experience’ helps identify the Best Employers for the year.
A rigorous analysis is run on the inputs captured to measure the alignment between Intent-Design-Experience for all participating organisations. A shortlisted set is taken through an intense on-site audit to validate the details provided and look for innovative practices that truly differentiate these organisations. These details are normalised against the Kincentric Process Maturity framework and presented to an external panel of an unbiased jury. The jury, comprising the corporate and academic community, independently arrives at the final list of India's Best Employers, with Kincentric playing only a facilitator role during this evaluation. Organisation names are masked during this process, and revealed to the jury only post final selection.
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(This story appears in the 26 March, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)