Tuesday, 28 July 2020

With COVID pandemic and the uncertainty jeopardizing the economy, HR departments are trying their best to keep the business operations stable and the employees motivated but is it as easy as it sounds? Jay Raval finds out in conversation with Ms. Deepa Dave, General Manager-HR, Piramal Sarvajal. 

Three months back COVID-19 struck and started disrupting routine, lifestyle, businesses and the global economy. As this pandemic was on the rise, most of the countries declared the current situation as a national emergency locking down everything apart from the essential services, which required organisations to change the course of working. At Piramal Sarvajal, response to COVID became the top priority for HR department. To begin with, a multi-department emergency response team was constituted, comprising of 10 members, sending a message that preparations are in place for an effective, collaborative and coordinated response to the pandemic. 

Focus being on the safety of employees and customers, HR team made phone calls. Deepa during the conversation tells “There are some of the employees who might not have the facility to access the email or government advisory every time like, Drivers, Plant Operators, CALM Executives, so it’s important that calls are made and they are educated about the preventive steps to be taken for theirs and family’s well-being. Around 12 team calls within a span of 3 days were done with different teams along with their leads. Each call lasting nearly 45 mins, we spoke about preventive measures for the well-being of employees and measures at the Sarvajal drinking water facilities, so that community continues to take water without any fear and panic and we continue to serve our community during these difficult times”. 

To ensure smooth and regular communication with staff, region-wise point of contacts were made and WhatsApp groups were created. Marketing team pitched in to prepare awareness materials which were then circulated. “It was really pleasant to experience that what guidelines and steps were imparted were followed with complete sincerity at various locations”.

To streamline work from home, guidelines were developed and shared with teams. With infection rising high, fear and anxiety can affect the mental and physical well being of the people. Team HR took in steps towards that direction too. Deepa elaborates on the steps taken“During the lockdown period we started Employee connect in which Paresh and Kshitij made calls to every employee. The objective of calling was to understand their and families well being in a way assuring that we are here to help, we care. The main reason being we have employees who are staying alone, from other states, who are staying in a joint family and are working in the field. if we found employee’s family member was not well, we were in touch with them till the time they recovered.  There were two JFE’s stuck in the lockdown so, Paresh was in touch with them till the time they reached their place. Amita sensitively handled issues of an employee staying in Ahmedabad during lockdown period”. Deepa talks about the ripple effect it created. “In these 3 months, employee calling helped my team members to get more connected with each of the employees of the organisation. More importantly, my team has developed an amazing rapport during these times”.  Expertise from Piramal Swasthya team was utilised to provide information about COVID Infection along with Inhouse sessions.  

With the easing of lockdown restrictions and reopening of the office, HR team prepared well in advance. Deepa while talking about preparation adds, “In conjunction with office opening guidelines, allowing limited no of employees to come to the office, conducting daily temperature screenings and symptom checks before employees enter the office, requiring employees to wear a face mask, having Aarogya setu app, moving workstations to keep employees at least 6 feet apart and ensuring social distancing is maintained were the steps taken”.  

All this required a team effort. Deepa proudly talks about her team members, “Despite the fact that Paresh Mepal and Ashok Bhai stay far away, they, including Mahendra did not say no, whenever they were asked to come making sure that office is sanitised and safeguard equipment are in place before other team members come. Before opening office, Paresh and Amita checked every guideline of the building premise and also spoke to various vendors to provide us quality materials. Awareness sessions on the guidelines were taken by Amita and Paresh for various team members based at Rajasthan, Gorakhpur and MP and warehouse”. 

HR team worked with Finance team to ensure salaries were disbursed on time and deposited in the respective accounts.  Talking with employees on a regular basis has helped HR team connect well and resolve the smallest queries. Deepa as a HR team lead is a strong believer of practicing, before you preach to others. 

She shares example of team member Ashok Bhai. “Ashokbhai has been with us for a long time now. He was well aware of the new normal and personally ensured that all prerequisites are in place. The assurance that he gives “Madam chinta na karo hu chu ne”, is a great relief. Ashok bhai downloaded the Aarogya Setu app, did registration for himself and then he was telling to others to use it”. With the new way of working, Ashokbhai’s tea and hospitality at office (ever smiling face, flowers at desk) helps us relive the earlier moments spent in office. Knowing that roster is followed, he wants be in office for all working days. He has trained Mahendra for making tea”. Further she adds, “Seema silently played an important role along with Amita to ensure that mediclaim coverage process continues during these difficult times. Aarohi was always ready to be in office and support team whether it was to do with guidelines or connecting with team members”. 
The efforts by HR team yielded accolades from the organisation. “When the office reopened first time, we received appreciation from different teams which was heartening” and I would like to say that with all initiatives taken by HR team they shown the example of योगः कर्मसु कौशलम्