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Using Technology to Prepare Workforce for Post-Pandemic Times

Using Technology to Prepare Workforce for Post-Pandemic Times

​As the COVID-19 pandemic ebbs in India and companies prepare models for a hybrid work environment, they are looking to technology to find ways to keep a distributed workforce productive and connected. How technology has already helped in this and how else HR can put it to good use, were among the topics discussed by more than 120 speakers at the SHRM Tech 21virtual conference held by SHRM India last month.Here’s a look at a few key takeaways from the event.What CEOs Want from HR TodayThe pandemic has wrought huge change for organizations, and more change is in the cards as organizations prepare for post-pandemic times. HR can help prepare for that. “Readying the workforce for what might seem to be a very different world as we emerge from this crisis—that will be my biggest ask from HR,” said Nitin Rakesh, chief executive officer of Mphasis, an information technology-services and solutions provider in New York City.Rakesh said that organizations increasingly have new demands from employees, which means that employees need to constantly keep upgrading their skills to meet those demands. The need for upgrading roles and technological skills is not only true for Mphasis because it’s in the IT sector but also true for all companies—be they in finance or media.”Whether we know it or not, every business is a technology business today,” Rakesh said. Three-Point Approach to Support Business Growth To make an organization ready for change, Souvik Maity, employee experience & operations manager at consumer goods company Unilever in Mumbai, suggested a three-point approach. “First thing as human resources we can do is to source people who can interpret these changes that are happening presently,” Maity said. In the consumer goods industry, for instance, he said consumer behavior and buying patterns are changing. So the key would be to hire talent that can identify such trends. Once these employees are on board, the organization needs to supply them with platforms, skills and opportunities that enable them to influence the ongoing changes, in ways that favor their organization.Finally, HR should try to create an environment where its employees can influence trends that may come up in the future. “If we, as HR, are able to drive these three priorities, then I think making an organization agile—ensuring business growth—becomes easy,” Maity said. He said technology provides tools to accomplish all of these priorities. It can help identify the right talent by sifting through tens of thousands of resumes and also provide platforms for employees to become influencers.For Future Workforce, Think ‘Personas’ One big change that organizations can expect is in talent management, starting with work profiles.”Role is something that I’m starting to get concerned about. … Is there going to be a role 10 years down the line?” said Kalpana Bansal, vice president (domain head—HR platform) at conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd in Mahrashtra. Bansal said that it’s possible that in the future there are only “value creators” who don’t fit any role or organizational structure and come in to build …

India faces electricity crisis as coal supplies run critically low

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IndiaIndia faces electricity crisis as coal supplies run critically lowEight in 10 thermal power stations within days of running out as state blackouts spark protests Hannah Ellis-Petersen in DelhiMon 11 Oct 2021 21.27 EDTLast modified on Tue 12 Oct 2021 06.35 EDTIndia is facing a looming power crisis, as stocks of coal in power plants have fallen to unprecedentedly low levels and states are warning of power blackouts.States across India have issued panicked warnings that coal supplies to thermal power plants, which convert heat from coal to electricity, are running perilously low.China orders coalmines to raise production to address power crunchRead moreAccording to data from the Central Electricity Authority of India, nearly 80% of the country’s coal-fired plants were in the critical, or “supercritical” stage, meaning their stocks could run out in less than five days.Over the weekend, Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, wrote to the prime minister, Narendra Modi, that the capital “could face a blackout” if power stations did not receive more coal.States including Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Bihar have been experiencing power cuts lasting up to 14 hours.Maharashtra shut down 13 thermal power plants and urged people to use electricity sparingly, and in Punjab three power plants halted production. Scheduled power cuts introduced in Punjab, lasting up to six hours at a time, have prompted protests.However, experts have emphasised that the power issues are not due to a shortage of domestic coal …

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Companies in India Tailor Benefits to a New World of Working

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Companies in India Tailor Benefits to a New World of Working

​As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way we work, some employers in India have updated their employee benefits and allowances to make them more relevant to current times.A top priority has been medical benefits, given that the pandemic is far from over and medical treatment can be costly in India’s private hospitals. A ferocious wave of COVID-19 cases over the summer affected millions of employees and their families across the country, and employers are still responding. “The safety and well-being of employees has been predominant in whatever actions we take,” said Hema Mani, Chennai-based regional director of HR at Lennox India Technology Center, a manufacturer of heating, cooling and refrigeration systems. This year, Lennox added medical insurance coverage specifically for COVID-19 for its employees and their family members. It also created policies to support any other financial needs of employees that might not be covered by medical insurance, Mani said.  NEC Corporation India Pvt, a provider of IT and network technology solutions, increased employees’ medical coverage earlier this year when it renewed the company’s insurance policy. In addition, employees now receive a subsidized top-up option to further raise the coverage for their dependents. “We are hearing that COVID has long-term impact, so health has become critical for us,” said Kashish Kapoor, head of HR at NEC Corporation, based in Delhi. Companies like NEC and others have offered to reimburse the cost of vaccinations for employees and their dependents. This reimbursement would extend to any booster shots that may be required in the future, Kapoor said. Some companies have organized vaccination drives for staff. At chocolate-maker Hershey India Pvt, 90 percent of its employees have received at least one jab, and around 20 percent are now fully vaccinated. Hershey also extended health benefits to its third-party contractors who work on the company’s factory floor. And in addition to helping these workers get vaccinated, the company has made medical counseling available in multiple languages for contractors, according to Abhishikta Das, Mumbai-based HR director for Hershey.Last year, the company also announced a medical fund of up to $100 per employee to cover the cost of sanitizers, masks and anything else employees felt they needed to protect themselves from COVID-19, Das said. This was in addition to medical insurance for all employees, according to the company.To provide financial security for its sales staff, Hershey decided early on not to cut the incentives that make up a large part of their income. Instead, “we changed the design of our incentives,” Das said. Because sales executives could not visit clients in person, the company decided to assess the sales team based on the number of phone calls they were making to retailers and other clients. “That worked well,” Das noted. More Down TimeCompanies across India also have taken measures to help employees manage the anxieties and psychological stress tied to the pandemic and related issues. Some employers have implemented employee assistance programs for the first time.  At Hershey, the company contracted with two consultants …

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Portraits of Kolkata’s Rickshaw Pullers

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The dense metropolis is among the only places in India — and one of the few left in the world — where fleets of hand-pulled rickshaws still ply the streets.

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