Nupur Goenka (left), executive director, and Tejas Goenka, managing director, of Tally Solutions started from scratch where a work-from-home culture was concerned
Image: Selvaprakash Lakshmanan for Forbes India
It was a shock. In the 35-year history of Tally, we’ve never had a work-from-home, so nothing was set up,” says Nupur Goenka, executive director at Tally Solutions, makers of business management software.
For the Goenkas, the journey began with Peutronics in 1986, renamed as Tally Solutions in 1999. The company’s products and services help small and medium businesses (SMBs) in over 100 countries. In these three decades, Tally never needed its employees to work remotely. The Covid-19 outbreak changed that almost overnight.
“Right from the beginning, the primary principle that we followed was to keep employees safe, to make sure their families are safe. We started the transition to work-from-home way before the lockdown was announced in March. All the credit goes to the teams—the IT team, the admin team, the HR team,” says Goenka.
The company didn’t have the infrastructure available to allow over 900 people to work from home. Goenka recalls that teams put their heads together and within 24 hours, the broad structures were put in place and kinks smoothened. “Naturally, there were many managers who’d never experienced working with distributed teams, working with people remotely, and didn’t know how to handle everything from day-to-day conversations to appraisals to performance reviews remotely. Therefore, we started rolling out programmes very early in the lockdown to facilitate managers to do this. We’re still learning from it and trying to improve,” says Goenka.
“This transition is phenomenal. There would have been doubts about how an age-old traditional product company transforms into a remote working environment. But initiatives taken by the Tally leadership team made it happen. Along with health and well-being, organisations need to support and build capacity for planning and delivering collaborative work remotely as physical human interfaces reduce. This could be a key feature of the new normal of work,” says Gayathri Vasudevan, executive chairperson, LabourNet.
With distributed teams, the focus was shifted to better communication with employees. Goenka admits that lack of experience in the remote working space required the company to start a feedback loop with employees and managers.
Goenka elaborates, “As soon as the lockdown was announced, we had a live session with the entire company. One of the first things that we did was to set the expectations and say, ‘The first thing you need to do is to take care of yourself, to take care of your health, your mental health, your family’s physical and mental health, society and communities around you. And there is zero expectation for you to suddenly start working 12 hours a day.’ But beyond that, it has been very day-to-day. You talk to leaders and managers, you keep encouraging them to encourage their teams to take time off. We also do something simple: At the end of every day, we have a mobile notification that goes out to everyone inside the company saying, ‘the day is over, you can switch off now’. Not to say it solved all the problems, but every little bit helps.”
HR policies within the company were revamped to match the complexities of the time. The new reimbursement structure included compensation for setting up home offices and broadband connections. Learning and development opportunities were widened so that not only leaders, but employees too were able to avail development programmes outside the company. Being shut inside homes for several months on end is taxing, therefore Tally rolled out counselling services and free access to mental health services across the entire company.
“We started holding monthly [virtual] connects with the entire company, where everybody was present. Between me and Tejas [Goenka, managing director, and Nupur’s brother] we interacted with the entire company. Spoke to them about where we stand with respect to our goals, what we’re concerned about, what we’re very happy about. It was a completely open Q&A to discuss issues, address concerns, give suggestions, which became a very good sounding board,” recalls Goenka.
Vasudevan adds: “Focus on health and well-being talks about the Goenkas’ commitment to people resources. Acknowledging that the family becomes a unit of care for employees working from home amidst a pandemic and aligning HR support around it could have helped bridge information asymmetry about a new disease. This kind of support is normally found through individual social capital. For all we know, Tally would have been able to forge a new form of social contract with its employees. Moreover, support in transitioning to a new way of working, being able to maintain a routine could also be a coping mechanism for employees.”
Goenka believes that Tally Solutions is an inclusive workplace that is not afraid of going back to the drawing board. “There’s a lot wof diversity that is supported not only in terms of the type of people that we have on board, but I think it’s the diversity of practices, diversity of thought. And there is no form of that which is discouraged inside the company. The second thing is that after I joined Tally, I understood the history of the company. What was really fascinating was the number of times that we have completely overhauled our systems. I think that really makes a statement that says, ‘yes, we are willing to unlearn’. The fact that we’re not afraid to do that, and therefore collect feedback, can actually do things that are right by people. This makes it a very positive workplace.”
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(This story appears in the 26 March, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)