This is the third article in this series for SEED Academy. In the first two articles I have written about how loss of job in the current situation could be an opportunity and how any person who has lost the job must introspect to create a compelling reason for organizations to recruit the person. This article is for those who have survived the right sizing by organizations. The fact that a person has retained the job despite right sizing by the organization which employs the person indicates that the organization values the person and what the person can do for the organization during this pandemic and life after that. The first and foremost guard which the person needs to undertake is not to be complacent. I am aware of the intentions of several business owners who have planned reduction of manpower in tranches. I remember reading some eminent personality describing the current pandemic as a cyclone with a long tail. And we all know that the tail of any cyclone is more dangerous than the head or the body of the cyclone. Predictions suggest that the second peak could be in November this year. Everything is a speculation even though scientists, researchers, governments, academics, and bureaucrats are all experimenting with variety of modelling techniques to improve the accuracy of their predictions. Clearly, the uncertainty prevails, and nobody knows till how long. Under these circumstances individuals who have been able to survive the first round of right sizing must reinvent themselves and increase their personal relevance by focussing on their A-S-K. And ask themselves one question- what will make me more relevant to my organization’s business? This is a fundamental question as business dynamics, ecosystems and customer behaviour have been altered or impacted by this pandemic. Business models are being redefined and the increased role of technology in business is forcing organizations to reengineer their processes, policies, and employee orientation. An illustrative example in the Indian context is the rise in video consultation of patients in OPD practice. Our experience in healthcare consulting indicates that this will continue even after the pandemic is brought under control. It will be like the impact of web check in for air travel in India. This means that organization structures need to be tweaked along with related performance management systems (PMS), employees to be trained to deliver the customer service in the new normal, and doctors to be reoriented to offer consultation accordingly. This will impact the A-S-K of any employee. Attitude-Skill-Knowledge are the vertices of the triangle which makes any employee productive. Many organizations may not place enough emphasis to help all their employees to reinvent themselves. Employees cannot blame the organizations for this. They must reinvent themselves for their own good. Amongst the three vertices, knowledge, is the easiest to improve. With enough being written and discussed all over the internet, it is not very difficult for any individual to identify the gap in the knowledge and acquire the same through variety of methods with online learning being the chosen method for most people. The important knowledge to gather and process is the shift in the customers’ path to purchase and interaction with the brand during purchase. For example, there are positive reports in the newspaper about how real estate marketing agents (organizations who market on behalf of several real estate developers) have been able to attain sale numbers nearly equal to 85% of sales in June 2020 as compared to June 2019. This report is highly encouraging and provides enough reason to cheer. The starting point for this success is understanding the customers’ altered buying behaviour and aligning the sales efforts accordingly. This takes me to S-Skills which is at a higher level of difficulty to improve as compared to improving knowledge. In a lecture which I delivered for the employees working with a national chamber of commerce on changing and managing change, I had spoken about the key skills (given in the chart below) which are needed for individuals to increase their relevance to their organization.
These skills are essential for survival for any individual irrespective of the hierarchy and the role that the person is playing in the organization. All of us possess some of these skills. The important individual initiative that we need to undertake begins with an honest self-assessment and rating on each of these skills, prioritise the skill development depending on the hierarchy and role that one is performing and implement a skill development plan for self. The most difficult of the three vertices is A-Attitude. All of us have attitudes. And the attitude that we have has evolved and developed over the years and circumstances that we have encountered in our lives. Often, we become rigid- I am like this. Take it or leave it. This could be suicidal under these circumstances in case the current attitude that we possess is not in sync with the need of the time. In our role as business strategy consultants we are playing a pivotal role with several client organizations in preparing the organizations to overcome this pandemic successfully and prepare the organization for the post-pandemic business scenario. Lot of our advisory is concentrated on business strategy for the organization, HR strategy for the new normal and the technological readiness of the organization to adapt to the changing business dynamics and customer behaviour. We are recommending a singular attitudinal validation for employees who have been retained. Does the employee have the conviction to adapt self to the new normal and believe that the person can deliver what is expected of the person? Essentially, we are recommending having larger set of employees who have an internal locus of control i.e. the success or failure of my performance depends on me and less on the external circumstances. Internal locus of control makes employees to reinvent themselves to face the new normal. Most critical set of employees who must have internal locus of control are front line supervisors in any functional area. The reason is simple- if the supervisor believes that what must be delivered by the team is in control, the team members will believe in the same. Else they will have reasons for non-performance. It is like the captain of the army who leads the soldiers in the battlefield. This pandemic is a great opportunity for organizations to improve the collective A-S-K of their teams. A structured learning and development plan are mandatory after assessing the individuals on their individual and collective developmental needs. Just doing more training since people are work from home is not the correct approach. Moreover, employees who are hardly (or never) trained like back office support need to be seamlessly integrated in the plan to deliver the service to the customer. We predict that competition will increase as number of customers who decide to buy may decrease while the options for them to choose from, will remain the same. This increased competition for market share will be won by organizations whose teams are better aligned and equipped to service the internal and external customers better than the competitors. It is finally the teams which will decide the future of any organization. Business owners must accept this and A-S-K what they should do to avail of this opportunity.