How is Gig Economy going to shape the future of work?

July 25, 2022
Deepak Rajasekar

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Gig Economy & Future of Work

Realization entails change. Change creates the drive for possibilities. And, the search for possibilities ends with a choice!

The world looked at the pandemic as a storm that took away everything. But, there is another side to the disruption that laid a foundation for the workforce revolution.

Working from Home or remote working was yet another corporate concept that people had known but never tried for long.

During the pandemic, remote working was not only a savior but also paved the way for new career avenues for the workforce.

The Gig Economy

Gig – A single professional engagement.

As the name suggests, “Gig Economy” refers to professional engagement for a temporary or short duration of time, with a single or multiple employers.

In simple words, a person with certain skills is employed to get a certain project or task done, within a stipulated amount of time. Once the job is done, both parties decide on collaborating further, or, part ways.

Professionals and domain experts opt for gigs to exercise career flexibility and freedom of choice; and the ones who offer gig engagements, scout for the expertise to get a specific job done with no strings attached.

The people who work on Gigs are often referred to as freelancers, consultants, independent contractors/professionals.

According to a report by McKinsey, 1 out of 6 workers in traditional jobs would appreciate an opportunity to become a primary independent earner.

And, this is not all!

About 55% of Gig workers also maintain full-time or regular jobs – PYMNTS.

The independent workforce is shaping up rapidly and is building a reputation like never before.

As per American Staffing Association, 78% of Americans are looking at Gig Economy as a modern way of representing the independent workforce.

Why should companies prefer Gigs over Permanent Employment?

Well, why not?
What an employer expects from a permanent employee is:

  • Expertise in the field of work
  • Ability and willingness to take responsibility for the work and be productive
  • Professional commitment

These are also basic expectations that an employer sets from a non-permanent domain expert.
Today, the job market is highly competitive, and hiring a full-time candidate is not any less of a hassle.

About 68% of recruiters agree that investing in a new recruitment tech is the best way to improve the hiring function – Thrive.

However, recruitment is just the tip of the iceberg, the real challenge lies with engagement and retention. Companies in a similar space are enforcing out-of-the-box workforce strategies to attract the right talent and address the challenges of traditional employment.
It’s raining opportunities and expertise is limited. Loyalty isn’t a safe bet to take within this cut-throat competition for talent.
Even when the desired candidate with the right skill set and attitudes is hired, despite the odds, the process of engagement and creating a work environment that facilitates retention is a challenging task.

About 80% of the organizations say they are facing difficulties in filling the open positions due to the ongoing skill shortage – Monster.

Here, in this perplexing situation, the Gig Economy can actually sail you to the shore safely. Let’s understand how.

As we discussed earlier – A gig is nothing but a single professional engagement.

As an employer, what you can expect from the person you offer a gig to is as follows:

  • Cutting-edge expertise in the field of work
  • Complete ownership of the assignment
  • Timely delivery and work proficiency
  • The plug and play nature of the assignment means a vastly reduced time to productivity.

Herein, you save up on efforts and costs involved in hiring a full-time employee and building retention strategies to keep them aligned with you. And, most importantly, don’t forget about the costs that may incur due to a bad hire!

With Gigs, you go on in full control and you can also choose to divide the activity into smaller sub-activities and distribute them around several Gig Workers. This shall help you speed up your development.

For about 44% of gig workers, their contribution to Gig Economy is the primary source of income – Edison Research.

The changing face of the Gig economy

The notions of employment and the interpretation of work is shifting. Today, organizations choose to go with skills and expertise rather than the years of experience on paper.
Gig Economy has been predominant in the blue-collar space for a long. The pandemic paddled the need for the remote working culture and things started to shift left. The same talent, working 9 – 5, with a single employer in a full-time role started scouting for gigs.

This paved the onset for white-collar workers to join the Gig Economy which not only offered them the freedom of choice, greater flexibility in terms of career growth, and nevertheless opportunities to count on those additional sums during unprecedented times.

The pandemic came in as an eye-opener for the potential that existed within but didn’t get a flight to surface and shine.

The startup ecosystem observed a progressive incline when it was least expected and elevated the need for expertise at a greater bandwidth. Meanwhile, technology and the internet of things together united to revolutionize the way Gig Economy and Freelancing were looked at. The Gig Community started to shape up.

It didn’t take long for people to realize that Gig Economy offers them the freedom of choice, mix of skills, work experience that they are craving, flexibility, and last but not least social recognition for the expertise they possess.

When we talk about leadership, the Gig Economy has widened the horizons for otherwise unreachable leaders.

Business leaders who have been through peaks and valleys depict the crazy potential and the Gig Economy has conferred the liberty to utilize their talent in every way possible. Seasoned business leaders or C Suite Executives with deep experience and vast networks developed over the years have the unmatchable expertise that is high in demand with a bare minimum supply.

With Gig Economy, companies now can choose to hire a C Suite executive with powerful strategic expertise on a project-to-project basis. Meanwhile, these top-level leaders exercise their freedom of choice to work with multiple organizations under different roles, the organizations can benefit from their expertise in building scalable business processes and grow.

Gig Economy will continue to flourish as companies are drifting away from hiring based on experience and appreciating workforce strategies to hire based on skill set. Considering the costs incurred to hire top-level or senior level on a full-time basis, it won’t be too long before companies would prefer to hire Gig Professionals, especially at the C-Suite level positions.

How advantageous is the Gig Economy for you?

There is a prevalent misconception with reference to the “Gig Economy” and it’s time to change it.

The perception of a Gig player is that of an AirBNB landlord, Uber Driver, Volunteer, Online Marketplace Seller, and self-employed artist, people who perform tasks that require manual effort which could not be automated.

In reality the list includes freelance domain experts, consultants, multiple job-holders, highly skilled contractors, and other professionals.

Imagine a scenario, you are starting up and you need someone to ramp up the operations and set up business processes. Happily, today the choice is between someone with 10 years of experience and working with multiple companies in a similar space as yours as a part-time COO and, someone with 10 years of experience who has worked with 3 companies within different spaces as a Full-Time COO!

Costs incurred are the major distinguishing factor that stands out when you look at the two options available and choosing a COO part-time would be a great choice for a start-up where both cost and expertise needs are met.

The Future of Work

There is a revolution in people’s relationship with work.

Working professionals today are scouting for a quality of life, opportunities to grow, and freedom of choice.
The current job market is employee-driven and not employer-driven anymore. And people define their own worth.

Post pandemic, no one is relying on, or wants to rely on a single source of income.

With Gig Economy pacing up, while defining an effective workforce strategy,
Gig Workers are going to be a preferred choice, while full-time Employees will be few and relegated to security and core business functions

With the wide range of Gig workers across various roles in the White Collar space, Gig workers will soon be an un-eradicable part of the modern workforces.

The number of Gig Workers which was at around 43 million in 2018 is expected to rise up to 78 million in 2023 – Mastercard.

The Gig economy has helped HR professionals to leverage a global pool of otherwise inaccessible talent due to locational and other employment constraints. They now have the freedom to choose; or nture of engagement skills over experience or visa versa to get the best out of their workforce strategy.

A blended workforce strategy is going cement the skill and experience gap with all the right talent, at the right time and of course at the optimum costs.

It is time for organizations to think about their workforce strategy, the future of work and changing the way they work.

Deepak Rajasekar
The author is a veteran HR professional and currently the Director of the India operations of iCube Consortium Pte. Ltd. , Singapore.

www.solvecube.com

Is the hybrid strategy an effective workforce solution?

May 31, 2022
Chandrasekhar Pingali

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The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed our approach toward where we work, how we work, and when we work. The hybrid work strategy has been the ‘new norm’ for a while now as many employers and leaders have embraced it wholeheartedly. Whereas for employees, looking for flexible workplace solutions this might not necessarily be enough. What I discovered recently is that from an employee perspective the hybrid work solution does not necessarily mean flexible. The pandemic surely has changed our working style forever, what’s important is that we ask ourselves if the hybrid model is up for a challenge even before it has had the time to settle down.

Companies that encourage a remote work policy and provide flexibility for employees to work from anywhere all the time are way ahead of the game. The pandemic has proved that while existing under such uncertain circumstances, businesses that are currently still reaping financial benefits are those that are resilient and adaptable to a more flexible working structure. Employees are currently more confident than ever, about their capability to be productive within flexible work structures – the freedom to choose where and when they work – and that is overtaking the need for job security.

Our recent experience indicates that hybrid is not the solution

That there are employees who are not in favor of the hybrid strategy because it isn’t nearly enough was a very interesting revelation indeed. Shocking? Not really. The hybrid model still requires one to check in to the workplace a few times a week because of which one still needs to reside in the geographic area of the workplace. Something, we at SolveCube observed while deploying TA experts for our clients, was that many of the candidates [age group mid ’20s- mid 30’s] were keen on quitting their well-paid jobs for full workplace flexibility. It was interesting to see how younger talent, that too in big numbers, placed flexible work structure over job security. Of the 50 Talent Acquisition experts who applied to us had relocated to Tier-II cities in India. 90% said they prefer a completely remote working structure over the hybrid model. When asked about such a preference, the response was the kind that makes you re-think the hybrid workplace strategy. The pandemic caused many people to shift back to their hometowns and (even those who didn’t) had by now built an ecosystem of their own around their “new norm”. This eco-system created around the new normal started working out perfectly. The work-life integration – bringing the two aspects closer together is something they have come to appreciate and do not wish to disturb. This, followed by witnessing a noticeable dip in their cost of living, experiencing less fatigue and burnout, and an overall improved lifestyle seemed to be at the top of the list.

So, what is the new norm if not the hybrid work strategy?

The events over the past two years have finally put a concern experienced by employers and leaders to rest i.e., enabling employees to work remotely would translate into a loss of productivity. If anything, in most cases remote style working has boosted employee productivity, employee satisfaction, employee retention, and to some extent even increased the ability to attract talent. A survey conducted by EY finds that among southeast Asian respondents, nine in ten employees want flexibility in where and when they work, in the absence of which more than half (60%) would consider leaving their job post-COVID-19 pandemic.

So far organizations have been focusing on the aspect of where people might be working in the future, and, what’s the future of our workplace – in short, tweaking workplace structures rather than unleashing their true potential. It is time to gravitate towards the more important questions of how we can unravel work styles; how to develop truly flexible work structures that attract diverse, high potential talent to build organizations that are resilient and successful.

The new norm from an employee perspective works structures flexibility.

This brings us to the conclusion that the hybrid model might not be the solution after all, and that leaders probably do need to change their mindset. The focus now should not be on how to make the hybrid work model work, but instead, on creating a flexible work structure – how to utilize the talent that’s around us, and create job opportunities for remote workers. It is glaringly clear that employee productivity is dependent on factors other than location. A few key elements that the leadership needs to focus on is, ensuring that the right equipment is provided to remote workers (which includes investing in high-grade tech support), staying connected with their teams regardless of location, clarity of goals, and emphasis on forming clear, sharp channels for communication.

It is time for businesses to re-think the Hybrid workplace strategy because for a young talented workforce that runs into millions, it seems that flexible work structures are the solution and not hybrid in its current form.

Blended Workforce Strategy© – Is it the future of work?

May 18, 2022
Chandrasekhar Pingali

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It is said that change is the only constant and if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything it is that – acceptance, adaptation, and moving on are the only ways to stay resilient and grow your business.

Nearly two years of ever-changing safety protocols have forced many businesses to change their working style. While location flexibility – the hybrid working pattern – was initially difficult to accept, over time many leaders realized that the only way to withstand constant change is by staying flexible.

The rise of the pandemic has caused the employed to reconsider their relationship with work, and, management to think about business continuation in the face of talent shortages and business losses. While there is rich conversation happening about the benefits and pitfalls of a full work-from-home model, reopening offices, and hybrid work models, these conversations are still largely about the place of work strategy not about workforce strategy.

What is a Blended Workforce Strategy©?

The way we define Blended Workforce Strategy (BWS), is one where the workforce is a blend of different types of domain experts who have varied work contracts with the organization. This type of structure includes permanent full-time, part-time, permanent shared, turnkey freelancers, and outsourced employees working as a single collaborative workforce. This kind of setup works in favor of both, employers as well as employees, as both reap the surplus benefits of this structure.

What are the benefits of a Blended Workforce Strategy© set up?

  1. Flexible and agile workforce: A glimpse into the traditional talent acquisition practices helps us understand that organizations would often have to recruit experts for a full-time position even if the expertise was not required full-time. The implementation of a blended workforce means that your organization no longer relies on one talent acquisition process. Having a flexible approach toward hiring will increase your chances of discovering highly skilled talent at a more reasonable cost. It also provides the agility needed to adapt workforce skills to keep up with the pace of business change.
  2. Do away with skill gaps: One of the key takeaways from this setup is an agile workforce that lets employers bring onboard experts needed to speed up work and help them reach their targets, or focus on those prime projects to give them a competitive advantage. This way businesses always have access to top industry experts on demand.
  3. Specialized and advanced skillset: Some advanced skill sets are expensive to hire permanently. Besides, the need for these non-core skills change based on business strategy and stage of growth. With a blended workforce strategy, full-time permanent employment is no longer required for advanced or super-specialized skills. Hence, organizations can recruit special or advanced skillsets on a retainership basis until they attain the stability they seek.
  4. Fixed goals and clear communication: By its very nature, a blended workforce setup requires fixed goals and clear channels of communication. This generates efficiency and speeds up progress enabling companies to create high impact and high output.
  5. Talent inclusion: Traditional workforce strategies have little room for flexible and agile hiring. Companies lose out on expertise simply because they have no strategy that caters to experts who are either challenged by, or, have made a conscious choice based on their stage in life needs. Hiring through AI-powered talent marketplace platforms provides the much-needed access and support required to implement a Blended Workforce Strategy effectively.
creative estimation of how a blended Workforce gets distributed

Where do you start to create a Blended Workforce Strategy©?

The BWS is about building businesses that are resilient, stay relevant and competitive. So, we start with the business strategy and build a workforce strategy around it. What matters most for HR and business leaders is to use a structured process to peel the layers of job roles, tasks and activities while creating a blueprint for execution. The 6-step process created by ICube is a simple model to work with. Intuitively, a 70:30 ratio of core to non-core workforce should anchor this strategy.  However, some industries have higher ratios of 60:40 and 80:20 depending on the type of skills and stage of growth.

6 Steps To Create And Implement A Blended Workforce Plan

Is Blended Workforce Strategy the future for businesses?

As we settle into a new workforce era wherein companies take a more flexible approach to employment, BWS has dual advantages. For one, it helps companies reach their set goals by hiring advanced skillsets based on needs and stage of business growth, as well as overcoming the talent shortage and cost challenges. Secondly, it supports employees ride through their stage of life challenges, promoting well-being, and productivity. Furthermore, it is no secret that the increased use of technology has shifted focus from administrative skills to cognitive and creative problem-solving skills. McKinsey Global Institute recently reported that by 2025, “online talent platforms could increase global GDP by $2.7 trillion and improve job outcomes for 540 million people.” (Cite here)

The pandemic has led businesses to discover what is important for them to stay resilient. What comes up on top is adaptability, adoption of technology, and the appropriate deployment of people skills and experience.

Some part of this blog was published as Blended Workforce – Changing Mindset in Asia Pacific in ecosystem360, Dec 2020.

Blended Workforce Strategy© iCube Consortium Pte. Ltd. August 2019

Please visit us at https://solvecube.com/ to know more.

Mature workforce – a team of domain experts, a talent pool!

April 27, 2022
Chandrasekhar Pingali

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Why should we hire mature, seasoned experts?

Hiring managers are often torn between hiring for domain knowledge, work skills relevant to the current era, and sheer experience. Experience counts in almost all facets of the professional dimension. While younger employees already have the upper hand in networking, face timing, and handling tech gadgets, but, what about in-depth knowledge derived from business experience?

Does age matter when you need domain expertise to run your business?

Age-related attitudes are a significant challenge in today’s workplace, largely influenced by skills, new age thinking, technology savviness, the pace at which businesses run, and the need for work opportunities across the age spectrum.

Our experience, and findings from our readings, have led us to understand that balancing age, work skills, and experience will be inevitable in work places of the future.

According to the United Nations’ World Population Prospects 2019, by 2050 one in six persons will be over the age of 65 – up from one in eleven in 2019. This longevity shift affects all societies globally, while some at an early stage, others at an advanced level.

Asia and Europe have some of the world’s oldest populations, with people aged 65 and older. Japan takes the lead with 28 percent, followed by Italy with 23 percent. At slightly under 22%, Finland, Portugal, and Greece round out the top five.

China’s population comprises 12% of people aged 65 and up. In the United States it is 16 percent, 6% in India, and 3% in Nigeria. (Sources: United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects 2019)

According to Standard & Poor’s (S&P), by 2050 the number of elderly persons in the Saudi Arabian population overall, will rise to 15% from 3% currently.

So, what all this leads to is that traditional forms of retiring employees is a luxury that no society can afford any longer. Besides, science has proved that knowledge and skill (as obtained on the job, which are also the key indicators to any job performance) can continue to improve even at the age of 80.

Hence the question is – is it really wise to ignore the contribution of a valuable resource as the mature expert? 

What’s our take?

As is our experience in our business, in today’s management parlance mature experts refers to the 45+ age group. Typically, a 45-year-old with management qualifications would have 20 years of domain experience. The majority of the mature domain management professionals on our own platform are under 60. People are retiring at the age of 50, either by compulsion or by choice.

According to the data above, certain countries are rapidly aging, while others are decades away from a similar fate. As a result, certain countries like Japan or Italy are experiencing a labor shortage, and others like Vietnam or HK are thirsting for the wisdom of experience. This imbalance is a business opportunity to explore flexible ways to engage the global workforce.

We need a ‘Great Rethink’ to match the ‘Big Quit’

March 24, 2022
Deepa Chandrasekhar

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‘Big Quit’ – Employees are rethinking their relationship with work 

Employers all around the globe are dealing with a historic shift in the workforce’s thinking. 4.5 million people are known to have resigned of their own volition last November, reaching a 20 year high in the US alone, of which millennials with more than 5 years of work experience are the highest on the records. A Research Centre survey cites the primary reason for this as:

  • Low pay & No opportunity for advancement (63%)
  • Feeling disrespected at work (57%)
  • No flexibility to choose when they put in their hours (45%)

Exhaustion and grief being cited as the primary as per Mckinsey research, employees seek a renewed and revised feeling of purpose in their work, with fair remuneration, respect, recognition, significant encounters & interactions with peers and superiors, and not merely business transactions. Since the pandemic, job satisfaction is no longer just a fancy buzzword.

Organizations need to exercise a ‘Big Rethink’ in response

The pandemic led labor shortage has exhausted the employee and has got businesses concerned with issues of survival, growth, productivity, and related costs. Employees are revaluing their engagement with work and their relationship with employers. We believe that the only direction forward is a creation of a new work order reflecting a balance of employee and employer needs.

The time to ‘rethink’ a win-win approach to achieve the ‘great result’ is now!

  • From flexible working to flexible earning ‘Flexible working’ needs to expand beyond hours and hybrid work, to include flexible earning; hold multiple work positions simultaneously;
  • Workforce strategy and employment relationship
    1. Role sharing to create more opportunities for career development and growth
    2. Classifying work as core and non-core that includes permanent and non-permanent work opportunities
    3. A culture where the ownership of time belongs to the employee and output to the business
    4. Refocus performance in relation to effective task completion
    5. Embrace work without geographic boundaries
    6. Workforce strategies that provide work opportunities, by way of assignment based full time, part-time work rather than traditional job opportunities

In Conclusion

The Big Quit can’t last forever as the Great Re-think is already happening. We at SolveCube, are at the forefront of working on workforce strategy solutions, specifically its Blended Workforce Strategy, with our clients to support the Great Rethink.

Please visit us at www.solvecube.com to know more.

The Virtual AMEA CXO Round Table May 2020: Re-imagining Business with Digital, People & Mindset Change

May 27, 2020
Chandrasekhar Pingali

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An exclusive group of 13 CXOs from across 10 countries and 5 industries met at a virtual round table over two sessions to discuss better practices during COVID and a re-imagined future.

The scope of the discussion

In the current state we are preparing to enter into the unknown so preparing for the unthinkable becomes critical. Research based on previous crisis shows that organizations that were prepared to deal with many different types of scenarios were the ones that survived. So being prepared and not assuming that things will somehow work out is key.

The top of the mind issues identified were broadly categorized into two topics :
  • Re-imagining business with digital
  • People and mindset change

A McKinsey report on change in customer behavior and needs over the month of April shows
  • Digital engagement levels have climbed 20%
  • Use of cash has halved
  • 30-40% of customers have expressed greater need for advice
  • 20-30% want products to help them through the crisis

Clearly indicating that things have changed rapidly since this crisis started.

On re-imagining what, and how digital technologies will be used in the future.

The discussion in the group on reimagining use of digital technology can be broadly categorized in relation to:

  1. The magnitude of benefit or advantage.
  2. Experience wherein the customer is an empowered participant.

Large case studies mentioned were the use of a Digital Demand Generation approach in the US to craft new customer journeys enabled with AI and robotic process automation and a Bank project in Asia that would completely eliminate all local correspondents and merchant points and move the entire experience to a contact free, friction free environment.

While the current pandemic may have accelerated the process of digital adoption it has also made enterprises push the boundaries of their imagination, think very hard, design very heavily, choose very deliberately to find things that will truly stand out and make a massive impact, before embarking on a digitally transformative journey. Organizations are getting deeper into methodologies like Design Thinking to go beyond the unthinkable to create experiences that are participative and customer empowering in industries ranging from entertainment, gaming, and even in those as standard as digital payments. There is also a great deal of serious deliberation across user levels on what constitutes that individualized personal experience; what issues can emerge from the use of technologies like the industrial internet of things, predictive and prescriptive analysis, augmented technologies, and how to mitigate it.

Full advantage of digital can be captured when technologies re-engineer business processes, culture, skills and stakeholder journeys. Design thinking emerged as a “must do” for all participants to enable this reengineering.

At a lower level of magnitude of benefit or advantage is the digital automation and robotizing in conventional industrial/service entertainment sectors like:

  • Using virtual to attend to day to day activities to produce a near life like situations
  • Digital twinning for sports and entertainment
  • More of knitting together available digital technologies to accomplish conventional manufacturing and engineering tasks though remote supervision and expert intervention Conventional manufacturing supervision tasks accomplished remotely
  • Application of ML and AI to robotize tasks on the shop floor of heavy manufacturing industry
  • Increased use of digital tech to integrate ML, AI and robot tech integrated into service sector. This is driven by customer needs but enterprises taking it to a higher level for create greater customer satisfaction.

Some digital adoption has risen out of necessity in response to the current crisis but is now being converted into an opportunity to institutionalize and profit from the efficiencies that can be obtained and therefore will stay.

Digital technology can and should be used to create immersive, individually personalized experiences.

People are also beginning to realize that the way to gain real competitive advantage is to truly master digital; to go beyond classic dashboards into the realm of technologies like the industrial internet of things, predictive and prescriptive analysis, and augmented technologies. Companies with the resilience, muscle and visionary leadership will be able to see this process through, but those with more pressing day to day management and cash flow concerns will have a hard time staying the course. Eventually, the winners in every industry would have embraced digital reengineering and there is no time like a crisis to start on the journey.

On the trend in Vietnam

Considering the size of the market Vietnam has always had good technology access so, COVID has not really affected or changed digital usage drastically. 
The trend in the financial services sector appears to take a more collaborative approach to business – eg. Covering both credit sales origination, transaction, and collections on the same platform, or the ability to complete a transaction at the point of consumption using simple apps or chat applications.
As a result of the move towards greater digitalization the two emerging trends appear to be a need for a universal platform that provides the ability to collaborate and aggregate as a means of growth and the ability to be present at the points of consumption to make it simple to complete the transaction and effect a sale.
The push to adopt digital technologies to create seamless and integrated experiences for customers comes from a need for the company to gain competitive advantage, keep up with trends in the world; and some from the innovative ideas thrown up by partners whose services help power the business- ideas that came up from the market itself.

On whether the current rate of digital adoption will change behavior

On the question of whether digital adoption as a result of current circumstances will actually change behavior, opinion seems to indicate behavior change as a result of digital adoption that deliver a competitive advantage or those that bring about exciting experiences will definitely happen however, whether behavior will change when it concerns aspects of human needs like pleasure/business travel, eating out, or whether or not people will refuse a great offer on physical office space only time will tell.
A case in point being Vietnam which is back to near pre-lockdown state of normal people movement, but is seeing little behavioral change in the way people congregate to satisfy their social needs or their needs for entertainment and pleasure.

Added to the thinking pot is the belief that technology itself will not change anything unless there is a change in people’s mindsets and way of working. Hence working on building a culture needs to be a simultaneous process – if not one that precedes- in the digital transformation activity. Due consideration needs to be given to social listening as a way to not just to understand what is being said, but also to understand the sentiments behind it, both for people management and customer management if digital transformation is to be successful.

On the question of what will change on the people management, workforce and ways of working front, and, what a reimagined workforce structure will look like

The current crisis is not the outcome of an economic shock but the result of virus that is virulent and contagious. The fact that there isn’t a fix for it now, nor does there appear to be one in the near future, and, that the only way to stay safe is through the measures currently in place has resulted in a reset button on how people interact and will impact how people engage and work in the future. Generally, in large corporates the leadership team are an age that makes them more vulnerable to the virus. However, workforce cuts across generations and ages and hence it is imperative to ask and answer questions, on:

  • Circumstances under which one will opt to either go to work or work from home;
  • Adjustments that one will make both to the workplace and the way one works
  • Circumstances under which one will opt to undertake work related air travel
  • How well is the workforce reconciled to a non-physical digital way of work
  • Dealing with the spouse’s concerns about the risk one puts oneself through

These questions were challenged as considering only the near term perspective. Using the example of Sweden’s handling of the pandemic it was suggested that the long term view should consider mindset change, human resilience, flexibility and adaptability in societal constructs rather than take a binary near term view to address the challenge thrown up by the pandemic.

On what it takes to adopt a changed way of working

The key to adopting a new way of working is an executive decision and a clearly articulated direction on when physical or digital interaction will be adopted. In the example here business activity was divided into 4 parts Coverage, Communication, Execution and Evaluation. The decision was to limit physical business interaction with the world on a need to basis. Digitalization adequately covered the aspects of Coverage and Communication but Execution and Evaluation has external dependencies which they have no control over hence only time will tell how those two parts of the business activity pans out. This pandemic has stopped people in their tracks and while they have found ways to move forward the unpredictability of the future means that ability to retrieve and recover ground becomes a part of the new normal.

Acknowledging that age is a factor due to which in most large corporates the senior most leaders are more vulnerable to the virus, safety and responsibility to self and organization will drive business leaders to adopt efficient and effective ways of engaging with work.
The role that a spouse’s concern will play in the decision to put oneself at risk – and consequently the family at risk – cannot be responded to in a simple way.

The response to the dangers of COVID needs to be put into context and managed realistically. Countries like India have gone into a shell when they can least afford to. A mindset change is required to emerge from the shadow of the virus and look at ways to continue working and doing business, because until a definite cure is discovered the virus is here to stay.

On a re-imagined workforce strategy and structure

Recent events have deepened comfort with tele commuting and reduced physical contact but it has also demonstrated that the need for social interactions in business can’t be ignored.
The current crisis has forced businesses take the virtual route, made them more comfortable crossing physical boundaries virtually, work around time zone differences and most importantly brought about appreciation for the flexibility to interact, learn, ideate, and problem solve, that digital offers. This will most likely pressure on businesses to reconsider budgets for physical travel and therefore impact the events and events related logistics sector necessitating the sector to reimagine its business model.

Keeping the new ways of working in view, organizations are beginning to re-imagine their workforce strategy and structures in ways that increase the possibilities of working with a lean core, sharing experts, using collaborative workforce structures that cut across adjacent business sectors – though not competitive businesses as yet. In this context mindset change therefore, is not simply about individuals challenging their mindset for reasons of survival but developing a mindset change that addresses the need for success, and, the need to achieve goals collectively.
Re-imagining workforce strategy and structure has a long way to go. The real re-imagined workforce structure will need a hardnosed view on workforce costs. Since the heaviest costs are loaded at the middle and senior management going forward workforce structures will need to be:

  • Re-evaluated at the level of regional structures and roles defined by output – essentially rationalizing costs by taking away those roles that are aggregators.
  • Driven by an assessment of the absolute number of people needed to deliver the core business blended with a contingent workforce at the managerial level

A harder output and results focused workforce restructuring will need to take place especially in the middle and small sector if they are to remain in business even in the short run.

In conclusion

Questions remain as to what will be the catalyst that will promote re-imagination in your organization – be it digital transformation or workforce strategy. As to what will take organizations forward to respond to uncertain futures in a resilient and agile way in order to survive the answers seem to lay in an organization’s ability to be:

  • Agile and the willingness to adopt new ways or working that meet the requirements of the situation;
  • Nimble, willing to seize opportunities and take the risk to grow
  • Embrace the present, prepare for different scenarios and adopt different ways of engaging with work and people

[Part 3] A workforce strategy to stay resilient before, during and after a crisis

Deepa Chandrasekhar

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Staying Resilient before, during and after a crisis

If one takes a peek into those companies that have been down the path of negative economic shocks, and recessions for a 100 years and thrived, the common thread between them simply put is resilience.

This current pandemic has more than ever opened our eyes to the stark reality of our interconnectedness as people, economies, and nations. if we are to stay strong and emerge thriving, whatever shape and form the “new norm” may take, it will need to have resilience at the core. For this to happen resilience needs to be embedded into the constitution of the way a business is run.

Principles Pillar

The RICAP Framework for Resilience

The RICAP Framework (©iCube Consortium April 2020) is an approach to embedding resilience into the very core of a company’s way of functioning. Central to the understanding of resilient organizations are 5 principles Relationship, Innovation, Collaboration, Agility, and Prudence, that influence the way an organization functions through the 5 pillars of structure, strategy, process, people management and technology. 

The question therefore is how does this fit into a running enterprise?

The RICAP framework Matrix – which is the application of the RICAP Framework- provides direction to decisions on managing a running business to stay resilient, and thriving. 

Ricap Framework Matrix

Applying the RICAP Framework Matrix to re-imagine workforce strategy

Relationship:
  • Do the workflow processes promote collaborative work between the onsite, offsite and contingent workforce?

Innovation:
  • How do you create and leverage centers of excellence (hubs) & shared business services?
  • How can you include freelance experts as extended capacity for your business?
  • If you have excess capacity, how can you benefit from sharing resources with external partners and alliances?

Collaboration:
  • How do you create self-organizing structures, shared resource pools, and a lean expert core?
  • What secure technology is needed to support remote working teams and a collaborative workflow?

Agility:
  • What activities form the business core that needs stability and continuity and what part of your workforce can be flexed?
  • What roles can be powered by a freelance workforce?
  • What is the percentage of fixed and contingent workforce will support business agility?

Prudence: 
  • What people costs can be reduced without affecting morale and productivity?
  • What are the pet projects, structures or products that can be eliminated?
  • What when restructured will help eliminate between 15-20% costs more permanently?

Circumstances have forced increased adoption of digital technology which has helped immensely in continuing business activity remotely. The comfort in addressing the needs of a new norm has got us thinking about the changes we can make to the way we work. While it has forced business leaders to deal with more unsettling thoughts about what is going to change in the workplace and the impact on jobs, it has also built confidence in optimizing digital technology to experiment with new ways of working and creating new workflow processes that are cost effective, agile, and make businesses resilient. The 5 principles of the RICAP Framework is not a one-time-activity, but allow CXOs to continually test for resilience in the way a business is managed. 

Go ahead and Download the RICAP Framework Poster here


About Author

Deepa Chandrasekhar
Deepa Chandrasekhar has been a health care entrepreneur for over 13 years. She is currently a principal consultant at iCube Consortium, working closely with its intelligent Global Marketplace – SolveCubeHR.
Connect with Deepa on LinkedIn

[Part 2] Surviving to thrive: A 6 Part series to emerge stronger after a crisis

May 22, 2020
Chandrasekhar Pingali

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A Process to apply The RICAP Framework to build a resilient and thriving organization

In Part One of this series we shared a process to reduce some costs immediately and others permanently (without laying off people). In this blog, we share a framework we created based on our readings and observations about organizations that have lived through several economic downturns and have not just survived, but continue to thrive by simply applying certain principles intuitively. We have now codified these principles and developed The RICAP Framework for organisations to create a blueprint to resilience and execute.

The RICAP Framework and the process to create and implement a blueprint for business resilience

The RICAP Framework (©iCube Consortium April 2020) is an approach to embedding resilience into the very core of a company’s way of thinking and functioning. Central to the understanding of resilient organizations are 5 principles that influence the way an organization functions through the 5 pillars.

So how does this work?

We take a 5 step process approach to apply the 5 principles to the 5 pillars of the framework.

Step 1: Understand the 5 principles

Relationship: Connectedness built on mutuality, reliability and predictability.
Mutuality is about how two parties stand to gain when they agree to come together. Partnerships become predictable and reliable when they are built on strong foundations of aligning each other’s business purpose. 

Innovation: Creative use of resources to generate new or alternate solutions.
Whether it is people, infrastructure, machinery, real estate or other assets, how can you use these resources to create something new or figure out alternate solutions to solve a problem?

Collaboration: Sharing resources to generate efficiency.
Achieving collective results whether internal or external. The support that you provide other team/enterprise for them to succeed is the true essence of collaboration. 

Agility: Maintaining balance while adapting or responding to change with speed and flexibility.
Being nimble and alert to changing business environment, thinking through quickly to alter course that will continue to build the business is the essence of this principle. What should you do to review or reimagine your business & execute, playing to the core strengths of the enterprise?

Prudence: Relentless balancing between needs and wants.
This is a ruthless evaluation of what you really need for the business and what your wish list of wants could be. It is not just about reducing costs but also in assessing strategy, technology, people or structure. How will you distinguish between the two to eliminate inefficiency?

In general, no single principle is more important than others. However, in a given situation, one or two principles may take prominence over the others.

Step 2: Understand the stated definitions of the 5 pillars of a business

The pillars are Structure, People, Strategy, Process and Technology. Each of these are critical to run the business and are closely interrelated with each other. In other words, a cause and effect relationship exists between each of the pillars. For example if you add or reduce people, it will impact the Structure or the Process pillar.

Step 3: Assemble leadership team to study the 5×5 RICAP matrix and brainstorm

There are two ways of applying the 5×5 matrix. One way is to take one principle and review the matrix across 5 pillars. For example, take Prudence and review what it means across the 5 pillars of your business. The second way is to choose one pillar and review across all 5 principles. For example, choose Strategy and brainstorm how it pans out across the five principles.

Once in a year, at the point of goal setting for the new financial year, a review of all five pillars and five principles helps in sharpening the business goals. On the other hand, the matrix can also be used to review one pillar at a point in time, for the enterprise or its smaller units. The framework acts as a powerful tool with built-in statements that trigger ideation process. Teams will quickly get into the rhythm of brainstorming and it saves time and resources.

A full review takes up to 10-12 hours for quality discussions and outputs. If you don’t have time then prioritize the pillar to focus on, and apply the 5 principles for an action plan. 

Step 4: Create a blue print, build a consensus and finalize next steps

Once the brainstorming is done, create a roadmap for all five pillars. Prioritize and agree a set of actions with the top team. Agree on the resources needed, get a buy-in, finalize the roles and responsibilities and measures of success. The process will include clear plans to engage key influencers in the enterprise, allocate resources, detail the plan, form a program governance team, engage the larger organization, communicate and manage change, amongst other things.

Step 5: Execute the plan, ensure governance and conduct post implementation reviews

Sustained sponsorship of the program and adopting feedback with speed and agility is key to embedding the change. Conducting post implementation reviews on every major initiative will ensure continuous improvement and point out the mindset change needed in people, if required.

As research shows, any change is as good as the commitment of the leaders and the mindset change driven across the enterprise.

A note in conclusion

None of this is rocket science or fundamentally something new to experienced business leaders. However, our reason for creating The RICAP Framework is intended to bring together a structured approach and a process to continuously assess and build resilience in the organisations to thrive, not just survive!

Go ahead and Download the RICAP Framework Poster here


About Author

Chandrasekhar Pingali
Chandru is an entrepreneur and Founder & MD of iCube Consortium Pte. Ltd. He played a lead role in developing The Pentagon Model, Technology enabled HR diagnostics tools and the award winning e-market place SolveCubeHR that enables enterprises to find verified and matched freelance experts. Connect with him on LinkedIn

Company Culture and how we Create it

May 1, 2020
Runa Agarwal

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Maybe you’ve never thought about it before. But, how employees “feel” is a reflection on you and the company culture you’ve established.

How do you breathe life into a company’s culture that needs a fresh lease of life? Here are some of the questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do your employees enjoy coming to work? Coming to work should not be a forced act or bring a feeling of dread.
  • Is there a level of accountability and responsibility? Taking ownership makes employees feel connected and at home.
  • Are your employees engaged? When employees believe that what they do is important, it brings in a sense of commitment in them.
  • Is there a sense of camaraderie and respect? Employees like to be involved and know that they are trustworthy.
  • How do you invest in your employees? Recognition and rewards (monetary or otherwise) fora job well done, goes a long way to show that you value their work.

 

The importance of a strong foundation:

It starts with finding your mission, vision and values. At the core, of your company culture are the values and what you stand for. The top management needs to devote time and energy to determine these cornerstones. If this is not done, soon things will go beyond your control or competition will take over.

  • Mission statement: This tells the world, why you’re in business.
  • Vision statement: This describes what your company aspires to be down the road. It should have emotion and it should motivate.
  • Values: This is the foundation of your company culture; a blueprint for all, including yourself, of how one must behave at work.

 

It is these values and principles that will guide your daily actions and decisions. Discuss with top management and zero down on few things that all of you are passionate and emotional about. These are the values and this is where your company culture lives.

 

The importance of employee engagement:

Without employee engagement you cannot talk of company culture. Disengaged employees create lows – morale, money and productivity. A culture survey could be a good way to start. Employees willl et you know where the company is lagging in the field of culture.

Some key questions could be:

  • Is your (the employee’s) opinion valued?
  • How many times have you been recognized for a job well done?
  • Do you have the resources and tools to do your job?
  • How often do you talk to your superior?
  • Are you satisfied with your rewards?
  • Are you satisfied in your job?

 

The number of employees participating in the survey can be telling. If they are disenchanted, the participation rate is going to be pretty low. That’s serious. A red flag indeed!

The importance of trust:

Trust is key in creating company culture – if your people don’t trust you, they’re not going to follow you. Take this as an opportunity to build that trust. Use an external survey and make it anonymous.

If a culture survey is conducted, do it with a result. Your employees will be driven by the outcome. It will underscore any reason they may have for being disengaged.

A culture survey will shed light on the total environment of the company, what employees think, and their feedback on workplace, co-workers and managers. Use this information to see how your new found company culture and values align with the current climate.

The importance of getting Employee buy-in:

Before you finalize your company culture and values, be sure to ask for your employees’ input. After all, it’s their workplace that’s going to be directly affected by these decisions day in and day out.

Conduct a focus group study with employees from different departments, experience levels and job titles and no supervisors or management level people. Just the employees. Have them review the mission, vision and values and give their input.

Employee feedback can be a real eye-opener. What you thought as a marginal issue may rank higher for your employees; and what they find compelling may not have registered on your chart at all. In the end, it’s all yours – the vision, mission and the values. But if you’ve hired people you trust, then it’s worth hearing what they have to say.

It’s worthwhile to review the feedback and make tweaks as you see fit. Once the final version is ready,all of you must commit to live these values every day at work – all of you must walk the talk.

Things to consider as you move forward:

  • Do the leadership team model your values?
  • Does your company attract the like minded talented people?
  • Do your values challenge the team to be the best?
  • What opportunities are there to be involved with your employees?

 

You and your management teams’ actions will be the litmus test for employees. And it starts with their supervisors. If the leadership has done a good job in hiring talent, your company’s culture will be transparent.

The importance of how culture building is rolled out:

It’s more than putting it on a poster that hangs in the corridor walls.

Your company culture is an organic element. All aspects of the company is affected, from the way how you reward and recognize people to the game of nurturing talent. It will reflect on how you hire,onboard and who you fire. Your rewards and compensation practices will be in-line with your values.

If you want a strategic, competitive advantage, this is how you do it!! With the right culture and engaged employees, attrition levels will be minimized. It’s not enough to get them, you have to keep them.
It’s a hell of a lot of work!!!


About Author

Runa Agarwal ,

The author Runa Agarwal is Senior HR Practitioner – Client Practice at iCube Consortium Pte.Ltd., Singapore. She is an experienced HR professional who has worked in India and Singapore.

Disclaimer: The writing, comments and opinions in the article belong solely to the author.

[Part 1] Surviving to thrive: A 6 Part series to emerge stronger after a crisis.

April 9, 2020
Chandrasekhar Pingali

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A process to reduce some costs immediately and others permanently (without laying off people).

When you review your cost lines threadbare every month, you can eliminate at least 15% of wastage permanently. Yet, research reveals that only 15% of CEOs do so as a matter of routine!

With the COVID-19 crisis looming large, our company – an SME in Asia- recently reviewed our cost lines threadbare. We managed to temporarily park 22% of costs until normalcy returns; identified 28% that can be further reduced if the situation worsens; and as an added bonus, eliminated 15% of wastage permanently!

In Part 1 of this series, we share with you a step wise process to analyse the major cost lines typical for most enterprises. Viz. people; premises & infrastructure; technology; marketing & sales; travel; entertainment; and telecom.

Step 1
  • Engage leadership team to analyse all cost lines and discuss possible solutions  

Step 2 
  • Focus on cost drivers that represent 80-90% of costs to run the business. 
    1. Use company bank statements, credit card statements all accounting systems
    2. Examine auto debits in detail
    3. Look at payroll and benefits
    4. Examine cost patterns for the last 12 months 
  • Understand which costs are disproportionately growing compared to the revenue lines by business or product. 
    1. Analyse costs vs revenue trajectory 
    2. Ask the question “have the costs grown at the same pace as revenue? Are they higher or lower?” 
  • Review the costs of all support functions in greater depth
    1. Identify support cost silos that exist between businesses/products
    2. Ask the question “can they be hubbed?” 

Step 3
  • Identify immediate costs that can be saved from all of the above. Divide into: 
  1. Stop now 
  2. Stop permanently
  • Set cost reduction targets based on Severity of impact on business ratings – high, medium, low

Step 4
  • Sign off and Communicate the decisions across the team

Step 5 
  • Set up / change process of approvals across the company

Why it works…

In a business as usual scenario most CEOs believe some costs do not exist, or more accurately should not exist, because there are processes and people to manage them, but in reality they do. Here’s a list of typical expense cutting hotspots

  • Technology infrastructure:

Cloud storage, unused licences, storage of archived files, auto debits for tech solutions etc. It’s amazing how these costs can creep without us realizing it. Cut them off ruthlessly! If paid in another currency sometimes just the exchange rates are a big saving. 

  • Technology resources

Take a closer look at all outsourced services, resources from vendor partners, internal resources who can be redeployed for product development or improvements.

  • Telecommunication costs:

Hang on! Technology has actually brought a dramatic reduction in our personal telecom bills. So, have the company’s bills reduced too? Now is the time to cast a critical eye on the details in the bills! Watch out for Data plan creep, mobile usage reimbursements, use of direct calls vs internet calls; review the number of people who need to be given company mobiles.

  • Travel, stay and entertainment

This cost line could represent almost 30% of a company’s costs. They should be zero now during COVID. More importantly, rethink and prepare for new ways of working. Take advantage of the paradigm shift in work culture. Do you really have to travel to meet people or clients or events? Which ones are really essential? Do open up this expense tab and look at policy change for the future. There is potential for a more permanent reduction 

  • Premises

Consolidate premises costs

  1. Evaluate seat utilisation rate (normally ~1.3-1.5 per seat);
  2. Hand over premises not required based on potential new ways of working arrangements; 
  3. Explore the possibility of working in shifts permanently

  • Benefits: 

Many employee benefit policies do not get reviewed once activated.  Review the policies and ROI on benefits. By simply changing the nature of benefits, and withdrawing those that don’t provide any real benefit, it is possible to generate real savings without affecting employee morale. 

  • Marketing and sales

Often the least tampered with of all costs because of the fear of impact on revenue. But, a change in tactic may be more relevant for the moment, cost less and prepare you for the upturn. So, take a peep, don’t be shy, the possibilities may surprise you! 

  • People: 

Trust the assumption that in a downturn people would rather have the safety of a job, than be laid off. Besides, when you are back on the upturn you need to be prepared to go full steam ahead. Some best practices that we have observed in Asia are: 

  1. Stop promotions and increments for 6 months
  2. Reduce pay starting at the top with lower reductions at lower levels
  3. Consider paying 50% of salary for next few months and then ramp up after
  4. If you must lay off people, you still have to bear the costs of notice pay and redundancy. Agree to pay in installments every month. It helps in financial planning.

At a point of crisis all enterprises embark on a cost reconciliation exercise to survive.  However, every crisis changes the way work is done, what is relevant and important, and provides opportunity not merely to survive but thrive!


About Author

Chandrasekhar Pingali,
Chandrasekhar Pingali, Founder and MD of iCube Consortium Pte. Ltd, Singapore, is an established and well known HR and business leader.
iCube has a business advisory vertical and is the creator of SolveCubeHR – an award winning e-HR platform for all solutions HR.