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View from India: The evolving workforce, workplace and workload

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The Covid-19 pandemic has been an upheaval of sorts. Professionals describe it as a mixed bag of experiences as they share some real-time insights.

Every crisis unveils a new dimension for opportunities. Adversity drives change as the future unfolds. The long-term transformation is to get rid of micro-macro inefficiencies. Kunal Kaul is on the supply side of the value chain and responds to client needs. “The pandemic took us by surprise and no one had anticipated its sheer magnitude. No one could predict the scale at which it has happened,” said Kaul, director enterprise business, Cisco India & SAARC, speaking at an online event discussing business continuity.

At the behest of the chief information officer an online solution was designed for 100,000 users to access from home. “That was when we realised that the problem was real,” Kaul said in a matter-of-fact manner. Users have been provided with collaboration tools to connect with their customers.

A new model has unfolded. Face-to-face (F2F) meetings will be replaced by digital meetings. If they happen at all, then F2F meetings will be minimal. The workforce, workplace and workload will continue to evolve. The entire framework will move from a centralised framework to a distributed one. Distributed applications will become the mainstay. Globally organisations have shifted to a distributed workforce as the thrust on social distancing continues. The physical working environment has shifted to a digital one, with distributed end points.

“Security, both the private kind as well as the data, will become programmable. It means security providers will be able to give users what they want and evolve as user needs become more accentuated,” added Kaul. It’s also important to strike a balance between the data privacy of employees and end users.  

WFH may not be so conducive when more than one inmate works from home. The spotlight is then on navigation issues, device connectivity and cloud management. Connections will happen directly with the cloud.

Other experiences follow. “We operate out of seven cities and were shipping machines around March-April 2020. Everything seemed to have gone off like clockwork till we realised that we had forgotten to ship the cable that connects to the router,” recalled Harita Gupta, India country head at Sutherland Global Services. This is an example of how a small change can be seminal in nature.

Solving B2B issues requires a broad-based approach. “The challenge lies in creating a model which is elastic enough for the workforce to emulate. Covid is a disruptor and its disruption is a huge learning opportunity,” Gupta commented.   

Customer-centric needs have to be met regardless of the pandemic. “We have drawn out plans to service clients across cities. We ran a massive digital blitzkrieg. The communication screen showcased all our offerings. Tele-callers were accessible to clients. The complaints from customers have reduced,” reasoned Dipu KV, president - operations, communities and CX, Bajaj Allianz. The learning from this is that customers have specific requirements which are being met through mobile apps. An app for contact-tracing has been launched. Through agility, customers have the option of Doctor on Chat.

While technocrats explore tools to address upcoming needs, many existing procedures in the workspace have been tweaked. “We were able to knock down layers of bureaucracy and governance. It worked incredibly well. Our goal was to quickly move organisations across the world to meet customer requirements. We had to ensure that customers are comfortable in the given situation, considering their physical presence has been disrupted,” explained Simon Separghan, MD, head of customer contact and complaints at RBS.

Challenges related to cyber security and issues like jurisdiction had to be addressed. “Simplifying bureaucracy and curtailing long procedures are the key takeaways of the pandemic,” said Separghan, by way of explanation.

The WFH model requires a sense of permanence. Regulations need to be created with agility. It’s also essential to explore tech tools that will offer a comfort level of working in a distributed workforce.

Moving forward, there will be a surge in the usage of voice. Text messages in English and Indian vernaculars will be used extensively for providing citizen-related services as well as government announcements and updates. “Contactless sales will be the order of the day. Touch-less will become the in-thing and work-related travel will come down. The man-machine combo will be more accelerated,” highlighted Dipu.

It’s important to build trust and confidence among all stakeholders. A time has come when organisations need to invest in colleagues by involving their families. This will make them feel part of the organisation.

“For most people, the pandemic has resulted in lack of knowledge and error in judgment in many situations. It is highly unpredictable and unprecedented,” summed up Akhilesh Tuteja, global co-leader – cyber security at KPMG. Now people and organisations are more aware and conscious to take decisions.

The 4th Session of the NASSCOM BPM e-Confluence event threw light on these aspects. Titled ‘Evolved Business Continuity Framework for Resilience,’ the event was held online.

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