There has been a sea change in the way business dynamics are at play. There is less reliance on conventional work patterns, and companies are stepping out of their comfort zone not just to make their workplace attractive, but also to build a self-sustaining ecosystem prepared for the future to handle any unprecedented incident like COVID.
As the outbreak spread, the manufacturing industry transformed as companies rushed to implement unprecedented operational changes to maintain business continuity. Faced with the challenge of ensuring business continuity during lockdowns, the hybrid working model came to the rescue. Dr Bhupendra Kaushal, Manufacturing HR Manager, Zydus Wellness Limited, said, “I see hybrid working as a superset of remote working that will continue to exist in the future, even in manufacturing environments, because of its advantages over traditional working models.” Reduced operational costs, improved productivity, and increased employee job satisfaction are some of the benefits of having a hybrid work arrangement. This is why many industrial companies intend to sustain the transformation towards a hybrid workplace.
The strategic role of human resources as a harbinger of good times ahead for organizations
The human resources (HR) function has gone from being a cost center to being the heart of the organizational universe. While the strategic implementation of a hybrid work paradigm requires HR leaders to perform a substantial degree of change management, consider the larger role that HR must play for successful implementation.
1. Follow an incremental approach
Implementing a remote working model in a manufacturing organization requires significantly greater involvement from the management team throughout the deployment cycle. Sumit Neogi, HR Director of Lubrizol, Mumbaisuggests that the leadership approach to executing a strategy should be more cautious than aggressive.
Unlike service industries, manufacturing environments do not support the aggressive adoption or abandonment of a hybrid work model. They require a team on site to keep the machines operational. Neogi said, “We took a step-by-step approach to launching the hybrid working model, starting with back-office functions that did not require employees to be physically present at work and gradually progressing to workers front line at all levels. We assessed how productivity was impacted at each level before moving on to the next phase, “.
According to Dr. Kaushal, “HR leaders must rise to the opportunity to take a quantum leap and take on the role of strategic advisors to CEOs.” An HR business leader must be careful, prepared and have strong business acumen and skills – to provide predictive analysis to shareholders on the precise impacts change will have on business functions and develop a tailored plan to effectively navigate the transformation.
2. Rewire not only processes but also people’s mindsets
There is a need to review a company’s policies, procedures, culture, and employee mindset when transitioning to a hybrid workplace. Neogi said, “Turning around the limited cultural uptake of new hires and getting managers who weren’t comfortable with change on the same page were two of the biggest hurdles we faced in the process. “ Some managers find it uncomfortable to abandon ingrained practices and adopt new ones to lead teams. HR needs to take on the roles of catalyst and coach for managers to get them on the same page and facilitate a smooth transition. According to Neogi, an agile approach to change and an open mindset to unlearn and learn new ways to govern and manage performance are the essential qualities leaders and managers must possess to make a hybrid model work in a manufacturing environment.
Human resources has an important role to play in making leaders and managers navigators of change and fostering a culture where all employees, whether working onsite or offsite, feel like they belong.
3. Harness the benefits of key enablers to facilitate change
According to Dr. Kaushal, “Strategically implementing the remote work model crucially involves meeting the expectations of new hires and connecting a distributed workforce.” Digital technology and virtualization are smart keys to the new era for opening the door to seamless business operations, bringing together remote teams, and delivering personalized employee experiences. Dr. Kaushal informed, “We have reimagined frontline work to meet physical distancing requirements by embracing online platforms such as Teams or Zoom.” “We used appropriate workforce management tools to manage employee well-being, improve productivity and ensure safety,” he added.
Manufacturing companies should focus on tools to support combinations of onsite and remote work. “We have identified and digitized the practices creating obstacles to the implementation of change, such as conventional attendance and the method of reportings,” Neogi explained. He added, “We further created the IT infrastructure and defined guidelines on how to be cyber secure while working remotely.” For a smooth transition to hybrid working, HR must train employees in cloud-based collaboration technologies to create, innovate, and cooperate to solve business challenges.
In the pre-pandemic stage, large-scale production and installation projects required stakeholder approval before launching, leading to delays and increased operational costs. “Remote collaboration tools and technology have eliminated the need for actual gatherings and the associated costs,” suggested Dr. Kaushal. HR and management can achieve a win-win situation by leveraging digital tools and the benefits of technology over traditional ways of working.
4. Be proactive in meeting challenges
Not everything can be digitized and manipulated remotely, especially in a manufacturing company. Dr. Kaushal said that to overcome this hurdle and provide flexibility to our employees, “We have worked diligently to ensure that each employee is versatile enough to operate at least two different machines.” This reduced reliance on one person and eliminated any potential panic situation that might have arisen due to a lack of resources. » In a hybrid setting, the workforce must be empowered to alternate between on-site and remote work, allowing them some freedom to work; this can be achieved by keeping a talent pool with the necessary resources ready.
A hybrid working regime aims to provide the best possible mix of hands-on work and engagement with reduced stress, a shorter commute and a reasonable work-life balance. Keeping employees productive and engaged while maintaining business operations seamlessly is the top priority for HR managers when creating and implementing the hybrid work strategy.