The Changing Face of Work - What Employees Really Want

By Emrana Sheikh, Vice President - HR Asian Paints

Emrana Sheikh, Vice President - HR Asian Paints

Amidst today’s changing times, there is one important change which is redefining work, jobs, and careers as we knew it. The relationship between the individual and the organization has transformed – and the new relationship is still forming. The new norms are yet to take complete form, given the rapid pace of technological and business environment changes – and this sometimes results in unmet expectations from both employers and employees.

Let’s explore what some of these changes are.

Experiences

Every employee today is keen to have multiple experiences, as quickly as possible. Gone are the days when people were happy with specializing in a single field for their lives. People now cherish diversity of experiences, which allows for constant challenge and excitement. Collective attention spans are going down, and employees are keen to reinvent themselves. Job rotations, role enhancements help in creating this – which also calls for lean, agile teams where work can be quickly reallocated.

Matching such expectations across functions, locations and grades are sometimes difficult as well as challenging. Ensuring continuity of business through strong processes, aids in engineering employee experiences – releasing people on time, training replacements and more. At Asian Paints, we have structured job rotations every 2-3 years implemented across grades and roles which helps build experiences. In the tussle between creating new experiences and business delivery, one gets opportunity to constantly invent to achieve both.

Employability

Employees today are no longer worried about lifetime employment – there are far more interesting roles out there, and the uncertainty of unemployment is a distant possibility. Apart from the need of gaining experiences, there is also a clear intent to build on skills and exposure which improves employability. This is important to assess – not just for individuals, but also from an organization point of view. Keeping in pace with time, organizations must farm talent with rigor and discipline to be prepared for future business execution.

For a large organization like Asian Paints, there are several pockets which offer such opportunities – be it in the International Units, or the Home Improvement businesses. Roles in these businesses require an individual to handle larger complexity and responsibility and thus provide a strong grooming ground for future leaders. When employees are placed out of their comfort zone – they must learn to sail, or head back. With the right expectation setting, resources, and mentoring, most people sail which builds a positive culture for risk taking.

Ecosystem

Employees today are keen to find the right culture fit and are willing to keep looking till they find it! This was unheard of a few decades ago, where every employee knew that they had to fit into their current organization culture. Today, choices have exploded, and employees have access to those choices with relative ease on the internet. This means that people are unwilling to put up with a culture which doesn’t fit in with their personal values, goals
and aspirations.

It is the role of the leader to constantly evolve this culture, by keeping his / her ears to the ground. This ensures that everyone gets value out of their employment, which in turn builds value for the organization. Transition programs at Asian Paints – be it for campus talent, middle management, customized senior leadership interventions are helping individuals to be effective in their new roles quickly.

Evaluation and Metrics

With the advent and mass adoption of information technology in all spheres of business and personal life, there are colossal amounts of data which are regularly created. Data analysis helps organizations break through the clutter and glean insights amidst ever-changing opinions. After all, philosophy should be experienced, not just debated, and one of the most powerful methods of implementing an approach is by measuring the right metrics and checking progress.

Every organization, whether a 75-year-old paint giant like Asian Paints, or a 5-month-old start-up, does operate under resource constraints. These pertain to inflow of money, employees, costs of operations and more. Tracking the right metrics can help leverage more from the existing resource pool. Cost of employees as a proportion of sales, attrition across grades and tenure, number of internal promotions etc. answer critical questions about the talent in any organization. These may indicate lack of capability building, unsustainable costs, unstable workforce, which have tangible impact on business bottom-line.  The fact that Asian Paints has more than 90% of its senior leadership internally groomed provides a clear stability and continuity to business performance.

In conclusion, work is inextricable from the people who execute it. Every business leader knows that it is his/her employees who make the organization possible. The scramble to seek, nurture and retain the right people is not a zero-sum game – because human potential is limitless. Let’s endeavor to evolve workplaces of the future, where this unlimited potential can be realized for a better tomorrow. The magic success mantra is to keep innovating and building an inspiring and enriching workplace.

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