This article is part of our new State of Employee Feedback Series which will interview a diverse mix of HR experts and thought leaders with a goal of better understanding their perspectives on the current state of and future of HR.
The following is an interview we recently had with Sandeep Nath, Founder of RENEWALism.
Truth be told, human resources are in a state of shock, uncertainty, and denial. Leadership teams are still romancing the ways of the pre-pandemic world and the few L&Ds/HRs that are pushing for innovative means to deal with the new realities continue to face push-backs, even 18 months after pivot-time. Consequently, the shock of pandemic-enforced change has turned into shock of leadership apathy. Uncertainty looms high, because the renewal of operations, evaluation, and policy is necessary, but new processes lie in uncharted territory. One needs to stick one's neck out to discover what works... and since that is risky, most leaders are putting their heads in the sand, "waiting and watching".
In my view the biggest challenge is employee isolation. In the absence of physical camaraderie, feedback and reporting processes have become increasingly automated and therefore objective and structured. While this might sound progressive and unbiased, since human behaviour is not digital zero/one, true feedback can not be expected through such methods. Consequently we lose employee connect and therefore customer connect. This is a bigger challenge than most management heads perceive so far. Isolation also leads to lack of appreciation and consequent early signs of stress and depression. Organizations need to urgently renew people-processes to reduce stress and lack of connection.
Culturally, unless the corporate environment is welcoming of criticism, employee feedback will be limited and reserved. People expressing themselves usually do not know where others might draw the line on what can be considered "sensitive". Therefore, they feel it better to stay shut. What companies can do proactively is:
1. Reward 'Renewal Initiatives", which are conceived in a way that lets-go the past, envisions a defined & desired future, and proposes appropriate action in the present. This type of initiative can be radical and even critical, but since it is aimed at renewal of systems - and rewarded - people will be forthcoming with it.
2. Make spot-polling an easy feedback option across mobile media.
3. Run contests for creative feedback.
The pandemic has nudged us in the direction of valuing life and people, especially valuing the contributions of people at the bottom of the pyramid, such as delivery boys, security guards, garbage collectors and others who kept social sanitation and services delivery alive despite the odds. It has also - on another plane - demonstrated the futility of marketing and the significance of caring for human fragility. Given these signals, I will be thrilled to see an empowered HR that brings to the fore people development, especially in areas of health, wellbeing, welfare structures, and communing systems. An HR that borrows from marketing budgets and delivers in customer retention & happiness through employee retention & happiness. An HR that vocalizes social betterment of the bottom of the pyramid - more in terms of stature and recognition, than money.
My role as the founder of RENEWALism - and an active speaker and coach on improving People, Purpose, and Process - lies in co-opting companies to align internally and reduce stress and absenteeism, while increasing productivity, engagement, and happiness. During the next 3-5 years I see this role evolve into creating a corporate movement around RENEWALism, which is backed by empirical data from this initial clutch of organizations that choose to align internally. This data will demonstrate the impact of Renewal Habits in terms of percentage increase in several performance criteria and reduction in the incidence of physical, mental, and emotional suffering.