AI To Impact

PODCAST: COVID 19 | Redefining Digital Enterprises

Episode 1: COVID 19 & The New Normal at Workplaces

Listening time: 13 minutes

COVID 19 & The New Normal at Workplaces

In the first episode of this series, Listen to Dhritiman Chakrabarti (DC) – an expert in HR Advisory and global consulting, talk about the implications of COVID-19 and the far-reaching effects it will have on the world, both people and enterprises. When the dust from this storm clears, HR teams across enterprises will be empowered to helm the redefinition of work, workplace, and workforce for an agile and scalable future!

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Anushruti: Hi, everyone. You’re listening to AI to Impact by BRIDGEi2i, a podcast on AI for the Digital Enterprise. My name is Anushruti, and I’m a part of the CEO’s Program Office at BRIDGEi2i and the custodian of data around our sales pipeline. We are at the epicenter of a massive shift, and 2020 will be the year a pandemic called COVID-19 wreaked havoc all over the world. Using our AI to Impact podcast as a channel, we’ll be having conversations with BRIDGEi2i business heads, reputed AI & analytics leaders, sales experts, and digital transformation advisors to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on enterprises and how they can recalibrate their focus.

Today, I’m going to be talking with an HR leader Dhritiman Chakrabarti, also known as DC, who is an advisor at BRIDGEi2i and is based out of Singapore. To talk a little bit more about DC: He has more than two decades of experience in management consulting with leading consulting firms. His client work has predominantly focused on bringing together analytics, strategy, program design, implementation, and technology enablement in large scale HR transformation initiatives. Hi DC! Thank you so much for taking the time today to connect with us.

Dhritiman Chakrabarti: You’re welcome, Anushruti. Always a pleasure to talk to you.

Anushruti: Likewise. So, the COVID 19 outbreak seems to have impacted the world on an unprecedented scale, and everyone is grappling with the environment of uncertainty that it has created. What are your observations around the impact and how people are dealing with it?

Dhritiman Chakrabarti: Well, there are several that immediately come to mind, but the first one, as you said, is the unprecedented scale of impact, which is being felt widely across multiple countries, industries, and hence a much larger workforce. As we’ve seen over the last few weeks, there is widespread dislocation of employees and teams, which has significantly reduced the social compact within organizations. As a result, there is an impact being felt on employee engagement and productivity. Especially with working from home, employees are having to continuously balance professional and personal priorities. Last but not least, as we start to think beyond the pandemic itself, we can’t discount the economic impact of this crisis on things like jobs that will be lost or reduced, or slower hiring and the health and financial well-being of employees Which companies will have to pay careful attention to.

Anushruti: Very true, DC. Clearly unlike anything that we’ve seen, at least in living memory. Just thinking ahead then, how do you see this phase that we are in likely to impact teams, organizations, and the workplace as a whole?

Dhritiman Chakrabarti: So I’ve been thinking that the phase that we’re in – in many ways is only accentuating some of the things that were already starting to happen over the last few years. For instance, most companies are having to embrace virtual working, technology adoption, and even further work-life integration than in the past, even though we could argue that in many industries, that had already started to happen. I also believe that it’s demanding more flexibility in the hands of people managers on things like work allocation, workload balancing, and ongoing performance check-ins. With managers being closest to the engagement and productivity of their teams, we would hope to see much more of their input in the design of HR programs and with much faster feedback loops on their effectiveness. We may also start to see the advent of smaller, cross-functional networks of teams which will have defined outcomes that will communicate using multiple channels and with greater transparency and management rhythm. As an example, we were already starting to see this in project-based organizations, but that might become much more prevalent across many other industries.

Anushruti: Absolutely, DC. And if COVID-19, were almost an inflection point, what will it take to navigate businesses beyond this crisis? As traditional assumptions and priorities will become irrelevant or will change drastically, what kind of shift do you see in strategies and priorities of organizations?

Dhritiman Chakrabarti: Let me say this, that this crisis will present an opportunity like similar downturns in the past when some of the best examples of innovation that we see around were born. We believe that companies that will pause, reflect on the impact of the crisis, and apply those learnings will emerge as the true winners in the end. Particularly with the increase of digitization across industries.

As newer business models will emerge and older ones phased away, there’ll be a similar impact on newer jobs and skips, which would accelerate the need for redesigning jobs using combinations of employees, machines and on-demand talent, including gig platforms, alliances, strategic partnerships, etc.

We also think that the cycle time from identification to the deployment of newer skills would get significantly shortened, which would need continuous forecasting of skill gaps along with their rapid matching and deployment. Finally, as we know, unemployment is likely to increase across many industries, and hence there could be an opportunity to tap into a pool of qualified and experienced talent that was not available earlier.

Anushruti: Definitely. And definitely a silver lining there for those that will capitalize on it. I completely agree to the point that companies have already been under different stages of their digital transformation journey. So, one may wonder if our current solutions are enabling their journey forward? Or do we need to redevise newer solutions to succeed in the future?

Dhritiman Chakrabarti: Good point there, Anushruti on whether current solutions are good enough or we need newer ones. My thoughts on that question have been a little different. Like we’ve discussed before, there isn’t any precedence or past references for the situation that we are in. Hence, what I’ve been thinking about instead are capabilities that would be able to endure through the times that we are in, keeping in mind the external environment. To start off, I’d like to call out the need for data and for companies to be able to have their entire HR data infrastructure in place and continuously updated. With growth likely to remain sluggish, it will be key to monitor various scenarios of HR cost data, which would need to be simulated in almost a dynamic manner with business revenue metrics and even drivers of employee motivation and retention. We hope this would enable much faster decision making on specific areas that need to be managed quickly. Another capability that I’ve been thinking about is the ability to recommend actions based off of the data that an organization already has. If we take the example of two teams, one with excess capacity and the other not that much, right now what we need is a way to match demand for talent with spare capacity and make recommendations on those teams or employees that could have the nearest skill match and can be quickly deployed. Another application of the same capability could be next best recommendations for talent, for open jobs and vice versa. Finally, navigating the next few years, in my view, would need multiple constraints to be optimized continuously. Business needs, as we know, will continue to evolve and hence the desired end-state organization will be a moving target. Yet, things like pay budgets, hiring challenges, internal mobility restrictions, capacity balancing issues, the shifting mix of skills, employee engagement and retention will be just a few examples of constraints that would need to be continuously optimized. As much as we would like it, unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet, but we believe some of those capabilities would certainly go the distance in the times that we are faced with.

Anushruti: Yeah silver bullet- enjoying the metaphor, if anything. Though, thinking further and beyond, when the dust would have settled after COVID-19, what will be the new normal of work? What kind of workplace transformation might we be looking at? And how can HR teams ensure to minimize business impact?

Dhritiman Chakrabarti: So that’s a good question and I believe the answers will evolve as we will know for how long and deep the scale of the impact is. Even though a bit early to call, we could see a few broad trends that will emerge. And we’re likely to remain for a few years to come. The first being growth across many industries will slow down and hence companies would need to be ready with a more sustainable cost base for the foreseeable future, which may impact budgets, things like hiring decisions versus internal development of talent being a few examples. We could also review and reset all structures, especially being able to better respond to newer business models.

As an example, most businesses will need an organization that will drive digital commerce even further. As their go-to-market mix continues to shift between off-line to online, so will their organization structures need to respond to. So it’s sustaining costs being a given, the challenge would then be that the gap in demand and supply of key skills would still remain and in fact, may even increase. Hence, we would need organizations and work arrangements that are a lot more flexible and scalable.

In summary, we could see redefinition of three things that HR teams would need to be ready for. Number one, the definition of work and how that will be done. Second, the workforce of the future, which is far more scalable and agile. And finally, the connected but not necessarily co-located workforce of the future.

Anushruti: Right. Thank you for summarizing DC. As rightly mentioned by you, we can see the drastic shift in the definition of work, workforce and the workplace starting now itself. Now, I’d like to take a moment to thank you again for taking out the time to connect with us and for sharing your thoughts. We know these are difficult times, but as you very well mentioned, every crisis presents an opportunity. And we do hope that we collectively make the most out of it. Thank you, DC. Thank you so much.

Dhritiman Chakrabarti: My pleasure again, Anushruti. It was great to talk to you, as always.

Anushruti: Likewise, DC and also, thank you so much for listening to this episode of AI to Impact podcast. It was a great conversation with DC -an HR leader and advisor at BRIDGEi2i. Do subscribe as we will continue the conversation with business experts and thought leaders in the upcoming episodes. They will be discussing the business impact of COVID-19 on various industries and how the journey looks for them in the future. Once again, thank you so much for tuning in. Bye. Stay home. Stay safe!

BRIDGEi2i Advisor – People Analytics

2020 will long be remembered for the pandemic that wreaked havoc on the global economy and disrupted communities and businesses in unprecedented ways. In our latest podcast series: COVID19 | Redefining Digital Enterprises, we will be interacting with several thought leaders, BRIDGEi2i Business Heads, Domain Experts, and reputed AI and analytics leaders to understand the various challenges emerging out of this crisis and the way forward for enterprises in the new world order. Tune in to know more!

Meet the Speaker

Dhritiman Chakrabarti

Dhritiman Chakrabarti

Dhritiman Chakrabarti has over 20 years of extensive experience in HR Advisory across three major Global Consulting firms. Some of his areas of expertise include Talent Strategy and Analytics, Performance management, HR Transformation, and Executive compensation, to name a few. At BRIDGEi2i, Dhritiman is responsible for guiding the global Talent Analytics business. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce (Hons), a Master’s in Business Administration, and an Advanced Diploma in Systems Management.