Amity Institute Of Training & Development


Interviewed by: Mr Ashish Sahu, Vice President Training, Amity Institute of Training & Development

About: Mr Mathur is an MD and CEO of Canada HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce OBC Life Insurance, which is now a part of PNB; with a vision and commitment to providing customers innovative life insurance solutions to manage their wealth and security financial goals. He is the founder member of the Company and has headed various key roles before taking over as CEO in 2015. He has done transformation in the Company, clocking 24% CAGR growth in the last five years. He strongly believes that sustainable growth for the Company can only come with a customer-centric approach and that's what the values are also seen in the Company. The first value of the Company is customer-centricity. He also firmly believes that the most valuable asset for the Company are employees and strongly believes in giving opportunities to people to learn and grow in the Organisation and this is what we are also into Learning and Development space and in his opinion, a person can deliver the best performance if the performers think like an Entrepreneur of the business and not as an employee of the business and more so I think at this point of time when the economy is going through a tough time globally.

Click below to watch the recorded conversation.

 AITD: So, all the Organisations are struggling to how to engage and enable the workforce; the trends around the future of work are leading to an unleashed Organisation connected on digital platforms. So, we have seen that digitalisation has accelerated to a large extent which was moving but it was not moving in that space. Organisations are adjusting to how work gets done; exploring new ways of working and leveraging technology, as an immediate priority because everybody is working from home. To understand the work culture, business environment, reporting structure, technological innovations, and the impact on the future of work at large we would request to get insight from Mr Anuj at our Leadership Studio. So, I will be asking certain things to get your insights.

So, the first thing which I would like to ask you is, that I was looking through research which was given by McKinsey and Howard Business School, which said that Companies that had the most agile transformations pre-COVID 19 had performed better and move faster post-COVID 19 than those that have not? So, what do you think, what is your viewpoint on this?

Mr Anuj Mathur: I will provide industry perspective and I know we have got an audience here who are kind of much more aware of in terms of digital technology, we have people of Generation-Z; Gen-Z; which we call, so I'm going to share both in terms of practical perspective in terms of what we do at our business. Before actually, I answer your question, another important thing which I want to talk about upfront, is the need for protection, because I'm from the Insurance sector and we have seen the kind of risk which pandemic has brought in and I think a lot of insurance awareness has come in, in the last 9-10 months so before we get into the discussion my request to everyone here in this discussion would be that please look at the protection needed it's important, particularly in this environment where we have all these risks coming in.

Please take it seriously it's not just for savings but it's also for protection that you should buy the insurance and I am not saying this because I work for a Life Insurance Company, this is something which is the need of the hour and I know we have young guys here in this session; so, my request to everyone will be to please look at protection, protecting your family and for your future goals.

So, now I'll answer the question which you asked me and I think the research which has happened is right and it's true; the companies which started with their transformation journey and with the agile environment, have performed much better because it's not possible and particularly big businesses, who turn on and turn off, let's say in few days, particularly, for example, if I talk about our business we started our transformation journey many months before we were hit by COVID, we never knew that this is going to happen in March so our transformation journey started way back last year and digital was our priority in terms of how we can make business more digital-savvy without even knowing that COVID is going to hit us in the next few months and does help.

So, Companies that started early with agile transformation were much better prepared and that was visible in terms of the turnaround time in terms of disruption; so, I think if I look at our business we were up and running and 95% of our business operations were up and running within two days. So, when the lockdown happened on the 20th, within two days our people who are all working from home were enabled to work digitally and there was virtually no disruption in services and this we have seen in other companies also other businesses that whosoever had this preparation in advance were able to face this pandemic with much more agility.

AITD: As you said that, within two days you were able to deal with the situation itself and that says that you had been doing this transformation which has been taking place for a longer period. Now, the Organisation challenges of this era are humongous, and I just want to say there is a line which I read for the insurance sector, it says this it is the best of times in worst of times. This sector from a business point of view is growing at the same time in the worst in the sense that a lot of changes are taking place. The obvious challenges of this era are like you must transform, change, accelerate, improve, modernise, grow faster there's no time you can’t lag behind you have to get better to make it most cost-effective.

How does the Organisation prioritise so many things that are going at the same time, how do you think the Organisation, you have to prioritize and strike the right balance to complete the objectives in this dynamic where things are changing every day, so how do lead your Organisation to deal with this change?

Mr Anuj Mathur: I think the words that you used in terms of transform, change, accelerate, improve; these are the things which I hear from our shareholders also and other stakeholders, so this is the ideal state where we have to be very-very cost-effective, but I'll put it slightly differently. When you are running a big business, you have to plan for some of these things well in advance you cannot just accelerate business suddenly it will not happen or if you want to transform, it’s a journey it's not something which you can do overnight. So, as a Company, we focus on these things and what we did we set a vision for ourselves because some of these things can happen only if you have a vision to kind of accelerate business in the long term these are not things where you can take shortcuts, you can do in a short period so you have to have that vision, long-term vision, that how you are going to grow your business where do you see industry growing and if I could put the single important thing in various things which you just mentioned. I think change is very-very crucial so even if you must accelerate the business, people have to be mentally ready for the change and transformation in people–talk. It's not just a transformation of systems and processes, I'll put it the transformation of mindset of people I think that's most important and particularly in the service industry and particularly in financial services of which we are part people have to be ready to accept this change. So, I think acceptance of change is the single most important thing, if you ask me, amongst various things which you said in terms of what we need to do accelerate business, transform business, so that is the most important thing.

The other thing which I would like to mention, and this is a concept which is kind of catching up very fast is the ESG some of you would have heard there's a lot of focus now in the corporate sector on ESG which is focusing on Environment, focusing on Social responsibilities, and focusing on Governance. So, while there's always rush for growing the business doing things fast and all that but what I have observed, this is my experience of last 28 years that if you want to build a sustainable Organisation, if you want to build a sustainable business, this is very important so as a Company, our focus is on good governance if you ask me in today's era, if 2 - 3 things one has to be really kind of aware of, one is good governance, the other is risk management so I would say that all of us have to focus on growth, we have to accelerate growth we have to do better, we have to transform, we have to be agile but let's not forget what is really important in the background in terms of good governance, good risk management practises and building a very compliance kind of structure in place so growth can happen only if the foundation is strong and I firmly believe that for anybody who accelerate the business or to grow the foundation has to be really strong in terms of good governance so that is my view.

World is changing very fast, you hardly get any time to plan in advance and all that you have to be super agile and really quick in terms of implementation but this is something which I would like to mention that in this race one should not forget about good governance, risk management and compliance and today if you see globally, companies which are growing which are doing really well; they are very clear in terms of their priorities; they have proper governance, they have very robust risk management practises and I think this is important I'll also like to touch upon the cost-effective piece which you mentioned and in this environment where margins are under pressure, it is important so I'll call it as cost-optimization and not cost-effectiveness, because if you have to grow business, you have to invest in systems, you have to invest in processes, you have to invest in people but cost-optimization is something where you can continue to invest in the right things and then you see the business growing. So, in many Organisations, they call it cost-rationalisation, cost-effectiveness, I will say it is more of cost optimization getting the best value for money rather than just cutting corners and not investing the for future.

AITD: I think what you rightly said you mentioned earlier also is the agility and the speed by which you take these into stride like as you said within two days things were managed you were back on track in the business as usual as you normally term it ‘business usual’, that shows itself that what kind of change or what kind of mindset you talked about what kind of mind-set the employees already have because if that is not there it will be not that rampant or not that fast as you rightly said, I believe that you are leading Organisation in such a way that people have a very positive mindset and they've taken up that change very naturally and that is the reason why within two days you can do that.

Now at this point like most of the employees are working from home in virtual teams the pandemic has brought in tremendous change in human resource planning, operating to ensure that every employee is taking care of their well-being. We also talked about their performance enablement and upskilling employees for performing well in these times like we also as an Organisation we run a lot of workshops in terms of performance enablement where we try to enable the performance it's not about, they had been working but how do we enable them in these unprecedented times.

So, how do you think you make the employees future-ready, how do you feel that they are future-ready, and they can take this, how do you reskill them how do ensure that the performances are there which is required by them?

Mr Anuj Mathur: So, in our business, this is what I often tell my team members that the only asset which we have in this business is our people. We are not into manufacturing so the main assets which we carry on our balance sheet are in terms of people and we cannot sign a rupee value to it but the contribution from each member of the team matters. So, the question which you have asked is very important particularly pandemic environment where people are not kind of meeting face to face, we are not sitting in an office environment where the performance can be monitored on a real-time basis so in this environment or to be relevant and I'm using the word relevant this pandemic is difficult for businesses to kind of cope up with so if we have to be relevant for a business and if you want to grow with the Organisation it's very important in this pandemic environment that our performance our delivery should be at its best because performers will survive and people who are not able to perform over some time will exit from the system.

So, I think it's important that people should invest themselves in learning and development in upskilling themselves because right now in this virtual environment there's nobody who's supervising you 8 hours or 9 hours a day. So, I think it's very important for people to understand the importance of training of learning and development and of upskilling and I don't know how long will this pandemic continue we are all hopeful and fingers crossed that hopefully once the vaccine is where we should be back in our normal environment but even the normal environment will be new normal if I can put it that way I don't think so we will ever go back into the working environment which used to exist a year back. It will be a hybrid environment and in this environment, people must invest their time in upskilling themselves. So, I'll just list out few things which we have done as an Organisation and I think it's really important and while I feel that training is everyone's responsibility every person including the employee is responsible for training but I have seen that the HR function can actually do wonders here and I don't put accountability onto HR because HR can only create environment but these days you will see that HR is not just restricting themselves to hiring people or kind of their performance management. They are investing a lot of time and energy in terms of enabling them making them more productive making them more effective and in our Company, we have taken numbers of steps knowing that this is the new normal or we will never go back to the original kind of environment where you can put 50 people in a room and then impose training on them so we have used digital mode for imparting training for making people understand what is required in terms of upskilling

So, I was talking about the role of CPO, Chief People Officer; how that person can make people more effective and if I have to talk about our Company HR and IT they are partners when we got into this lockdown situation when we got into pandemic HR played a very important role in terms of enabling infrastructure ensuring that every person can contribute so I think it's a partnership now and the domain of HR is not just limited to hiring and training people but also to create that environment where people can perform and since we talked about virtual teams and virtual environment.

I think what is also important is that people engagement should be there because what we have seen in the initial days that this work from home environment initially excited people but very soon people got kind of I can use the word bored or felt challenged because meeting face to face is always the best collaboration, exchange of ideas so now with working for more than nine months in this virtual environment it became really important for us to engage employees because earlier we used to call it ‘fun at work’ but now the concept is ‘fun along with work’ because we all working from a different location so having fun along with work is something very, very important so our HR team along with internal communications team; they created a framework in which we are engaging with the employees we are involving them there are various programmes which we have launched for employees engagement and we have seen very good participation.

So, the virtual environment has its challenges and for us to get the best productivity or best commitment from employees must feel engaged they should feel part of the business and they actively contribute so these are some of the prerequisites if you ask me in terms of what is required in this virtual environment.

AITD: We have seen that there are a lot of innovative ways to engage and connect remotely with the workforce so as you pointed out you talked about fun along with work. So, what innovation you have done, what innovative ways are there to engage and connect with the newly remotely workforce which is now and according to you what percentage of your workforce do you think will permanently remain. Like we're seeing that lot of Organisations, ave already declared that by April 2021 or rather like Amazon said by December 2021 most of the employees will be working remotely.

So, what do you think because why I'm asking this question is very important because insurance is normally sold through intermediates and it is said that intermediaries are like they are known to you, they are a family person and it's a face to face connection and it will be difficult to digital connect with customers so because since they have a bonding that kind of thing that kind of trust they have built upon since a lot of years so similarly about employees, what innovation you are doing to engage in connecting these people?

Mr Anuj Mathur: So, I will cover the engagement part first in terms of what as a leadership team we are doing. So, when this lockdown started the first month, we all observed in terms of how things are settling in. But then we realised, when we saw that this pandemic situation is going to continue for a long, what we did, we started with Engagement Calls. So, when I say engagement calls, we have a group of senior management team members and we call that group ‘Manthan Group’. So, we started with a single Engagement Call, a weekly call, within the Manthan Group wherein we were connecting. It's a group of about 65-70 senior people in the Company. We connected and we used to exchange thoughts, ideas and let’s say if some good work was happening in some pocket, in some function, in some area, we used to call it out, we used to talk about it, and we used to appreciate good work. And then similar discussions were happening within the teams also. So, this is how we created the engagement model. We realised that during difficult times it is very important to be in touch with the teams. So, this is something that we created at the senior management level. Then as a Company, we started doing regular webinars. So, for example, the Sales Director was having regular calls with her team members for engagements. I did a couple of webinars too, with the entire workforce in terms of what the Company is doing. So, if you ask me for engagement, employees need to know what is happening in the Company. This can’t be one-way traffic that you ask employees to perform, keep on performing without they are getting visibility in terms of where we are heading for and what is in it for them. So, we call it, WIFM - What's in it for me.

So, employees should know that what is there for them, and particularly in this COVID environment where most of the news which you hear from media is all negative of job losses, pay cuts or redundancy. I think it's important, and we didn't do any of this stuff. In fact, over the last nine months, we have increased our manpower, we have increased our number of employees, and almost 2000 people have joined us in the last nine months. So, what we did, we communicated to all our people in terms of what we are doing as a company, what are the transformation initiatives we have taken. And this was across. So, this happened in certain groups and then there was Companywide communication which was happening. And we also have very regular kind of mails which goes to employees in terms of eye connect where we tell people that what is happening in the Company.

So, I think this engagement is very important, connect with leadership is very important wherein you regularly need to communicate to people, what is happening in the Company. So, this is something which we did on the engagement part, and I think this is true for most successful Organisations, wherein the leadership is reaching out to the last level, communicating with people and thankfully I think technology is supporting. So, we have a lot more than 5000 people in the company and through webinars, we can connect with all of them without even any need for any travel. So, I think technology is a big enabler. As we have seen that these calls have helped us in terms of meeting our business objectives as well as making clear to people that what is our long-term vision, how we are going to cope with this pandemic.

Now, coming to your second question which is in terms of this Virtual Environment, and whether people can permanently work from home. So, my response is that I think a hybrid model will exist and task which is very-very kind of measurable, where you have a clear give and get that this is what you expect from an individual, the guy can work from home in certain roles. I am very clear because now I think these days’ people talk about work from home permanently. So, maybe in certain businesses, it is possible, but I am a very practical man, and I would like to mention that in a B2C environment, and I think you also alluded to it that insurance is always sold, and you must think over at least 3 to 4 times before the person buys the policy.

So, there are certain businesses and there are certain roles, customer-facing roles, where you have to be with the customer. So, I would say that it will depend on which business you are in and within the business, what is your role. And there are certain roles which can happen only from an office environment, for example, our call centres. So, while during the lockdown period they were all connected, and we were addressing, or we were in touch with the customers over mails and digital mode. But then we realised that the environment which exists requires you to be in office. So, in certain areas, we said that ok, people who are in a call centre for better efficiency, for better output, for better connect, you have to be in office and let's be very practical.

The environment, the infrastructure also in India, in some pockets it supports but it's very difficult, let's say if a person is living in a small house, where the kids are also studying and then there are other activities also happening, in certain roles, you are required to be in an office environment. So, that's our strategy where the question is that you must operate in an office environment, you will operate from the office. We have not made it mandatory; it is optional for people but certain roles as I mentioned for an example Sales role, you don't have a choice, you have to be in the field, you have to be in bank branches, you have to meet the customers.

AITD: I was just going through the values you have mentioned, and every single value is important at this point in time as if somebody has already thought of it. I mean if I talk about Customer Centricity, if I talk about Agility, if I talk about Accountability, if I talk about Collaboration, if I talk about Empowerment and Respect - all these five values which I mean you have in your Company. They are all contemporary in the sense like this is what is required now. So, I mean, you had been talking about the vision for quite some time, and I could see that that vision was already there. And it is just putting things into perspective.

You also talked about Sales function requires physical presence and this idea, which is very common we talk about, is called 'Phygital' - it's a mix of technology and physical presence. So, my next question is regarding Technology. Like technology can help minimise disruption to operations by keeping employees connected and that's what's happening, regardless of where they are working. But what rules can an Organisation adopt for virtual work for adapting to the new practices and ways of work that we make teams in workplaces more effective in future? I mean, yes, they are working but there is a distraction, as you said there are some jobs to demand that they need to be in office.

So, what do you think that how do we adapt and what tools we can use as an Organisation to make it more effective?

Mr Anuj Mathur: Technology is the backbone, I can use that word like we have a backbone, if the backbone is strong, a person will be able to work and will be able to deliver the output. So, I think technology for any business and particularly in our business, technology gets involved in each area. I can't think of any actionable or any task which you have to deliver, which can happen without technology. So, that's the backbone. So, in this ‘Phygital’ world, where you need to have the digital assets, and at the same time, you need to also have Customer Connect, customer interaction. I think one has to strike the right balance, particularly in insurance, I think ‘Phygital’ is the right word or the right process, wherein we are using our digital assets to communicate with the customers, and actually, if you ask me it's the optimal way of doing business because there is complete transparency and I talked about governance and all these things.

So, when you are using digital means for communication, there is complete transparency, there is no communication drop or there is no scope of misunderstanding. So, we have leverage on technology so first, for 5000 people, all of them are connected digitally, so they have access to emails, they have the majority of people, they have tabs through which they work, but each person in the Organisation now either has a tab or a laptop. So, first, it was very important for us to have the infrastructure in place, and this is something which we had for quite some time, so we didn't do anything special for this COVID environment. We had to, for some people, who used to work from the office, and they were working on desktop, we had to arrange laptops for them. But in terms of technology, there are various aspects to it, so I think hardware is one thing where you need to provide hardware to the employer to be connected.

But, as I mentioned, the backbone has to be very strong, so be it in terms of the bandwidth connectivity for employees, if they are working from home, it becomes all the more important that the last mile connectivity is very strong. It becomes very important for you to invest in some of the tools so I will talk specifically about our business. So, we have a policy administration system that we are using since the beginning. But we created a workflow, underwriting workflow to which we can process business faster, we have implemented it.

Similarly, CRM is for Customer Interactions and Customer Relationship Management. That's something which we implemented, and we started with this journey, as I mentioned to you, before COVID. So, this was not done post-Covid because you can't make these changes overnight, so we started with this journey last year and this has helped us in terms of digitally enabling people. So, even an executive is attending to customers through a remote facility, he or she is now able to look at customer interaction. He can assess the customer need. So, that's something which is happening. So, having the right tools is very, very important.

And now I think there are so many available options, I think we have WebEx which is available through which you can communicate with people informally, you can connect with people over Zoom or whatever. So, I think all these things have become very-very handy in terms of doing business, ease of doing business. And if I talk about Customer Centricity because that's core to our business.

The customer experience has not dropped in the last nine months, COVID environment, and particularly the busy period which was of March. We were up and running in terms of our customer call centre, in terms of our interaction, nothing got impacted. So, that is something, which I think is great, where technology helped us. And for every business, I think technology is the backbone, so investing in technology is very important. What we also did - we moved into the Micro-services-based Architecture. So, earlier we had an old monolithic setup but then we said okay we must be future-ready, so we got into this architecture which provides the Agility, which provides the ability to make changes quickly and implement them. So, these are things that we did. And, obviously, the AIML, all these things helped us in terms of, analytics helps us in terms of assessing the customer profile and doing the right things. So, these are few things that we did on the technology side or leveraging on various tools to do business.

AITD: You talked about Microservices based Architecture, can you just tell us something more about it, what does it do, it's a very interesting tool?

Mr Anuj Mathur: What I understand of this is that your systems are very Agile in this kind of environment, you have various API's through which you can quickly change the environment, you can integrate, you can quickly make those changes which are required from time to time and the dependence on systems, the core system goes down when you have microservices-based open architecture, you can make quick changes, you can transform basis some of these integrations which you create in the system. So, it's not a technical answer, it’s more of a layman answer.

AITD: I was just asking from the point of view that how it is eased out. As you mentioned about, you have already taken too many measures in terms of technology. Now, the everyday connection that brings workers together, I mean we are talking about that we live in a social environment and when we give a very strong feeling towards the culture. So, my next question is towards a culture that means an everyday connection that brings workers together and feeds culture development that has been replaced by voice or video calls as we are talking about.

Traditionally, the office environment used to be where people used to meet, there is a crucial role in how employees and leaders develop cultural connections, and there was a personal connection and physical connection bonding. So, how can we maintain and nurture the ‘connect’ in this virtual world, carry that out because every Organisation has a culture of its own? Now in technology, everybody is working from home.

So, how do you think, what measures we can take to bring that culture which is so essential for the Organisation?

Mr Anuj Mathur: There are 2-3 things which I would like to mention because you can’t create culture, or you can’t change culture overnight. Like DNA, you are born with that DNA, so obviously it will reflect in your actions and your behaviour. So, as an Organisation, we were very particular right from day one and you talked about Our Values - the five values which we have. I did participate in a particular workshop where we came out with values as an Organisation, but it was the team that created these values because it has to be from the team or you can't impose these things from the top, they will not work. So, when you must build culture, you have to invite these values and you have to be a role model, you have to demonstrate that you believe in these values. And that's how the culture is created in the Organisation.

And when you get people from outside because you have to recruit people with skills and various things, the DNA must be preserved, the DNA of the Company has to be preserved and which comes in through some of the values which the Organisation has and you have to live with those values, you have to follow these values and that's how you build a sustainable business.

So, coming to this, as I mentioned to you, we were having these regular calls with the teams and employees, in every cell, we used to talk about some of these values, not necessarily that we have to talk about all the five values, but you have to talk about these things and how people are living with these values, how they are delivering it, and then that's how the culture gets created. So, it's not that if you must create the right culture in each interaction, you have to focus on it. It is not something which you talk about once a year and then the Organisation will build the culture.

So, that's how we have retreated in this, if I can use the word ‘Robotic’, where you have over-dependence on systems and processes, the human touch mustn’t be lost. And that's something very important for the Organisation. I think that the human touch is very very important, and leaders will have to invest time in ensuring that there is a connection with the team and they demonstrate that they are adhering to these values and business is being conducted in line with these values.

AITD: As you rightly said, 60-70 leaders, they were involved in ‘Manthan’ and understand and see what they can do for the well-being of the employees and I think very beautifully put across and I am impressed with the thought that these values what you are talking about, have been a collective idea of the employee. I mean it's the teams who have put it across and they are so-so relevant at this point So, that is the vision, the mindset which already, I think I must congratulate you for already having a very positive culture. These days we are talking a lot about culture, it’s a dynamic and open culture at the workplace. And it can be further fostered and nurtured in the Organisation.

So, how do you think that we can create shared workforce resilience where people are open, they can adapt to changing situations, that resilience – how to build upon that?

Mr Anuj Mathur: So, I think it's important for any Organisation that while the hierarchy is there, the openness in the Organisation should exist. So, if people have any problem, they should have that kind of freedom to speak, to talk about it. And when I say that we have a very positive culture in the company, it's not that we don't have problems, or we don't have challenges or people don't talk about very high targets and how to do business in a challenging environment. I think those things remain. But when people talk about culture, they don't talk from a tactical point of view, they talk from a long term sustainability point of view and some of the exit interviews if we do when people are leaving, we ask them this question - would you like to join back if there's an opportunity later. And we have seen almost 80-85% people saying yes, this is a good Organisation, we would like to work with this Organisation in future. So, maybe if somebody is getting a good opportunity wish him good luck. But these people, and there are many cases where we re-hire, where people come back, and they join. So, they join because of the culture, which is there at the workplace.

And as I mentioned, I think Openness, Transparency and Role Model Behaviour in leadership is very, very important. If you demonstrate these qualities, then I think the culture gets created in the Organisation. And again, I may be repeating it for the third or fourth time Engagement with Employees is very-very important. If you can communicate that this is the vision of the Company, but these are the values and these are the values which we will adhere to, there will be a zero-tolerance for non-adherence, then I think people accept it. And once people accept it, and then I think you have a cohesive workforce that is working with one vision with clear objectives. So, that's very important.

What we also did at the beginning of the year at the Organisation level; we said that these are our top 10 priorities, because many times it's very important to give a sense of direction to people that what are we trying to achieve. So, at the beginning of the year, we said okay these are the top 10 priorities and everything which we will do, will revolve around these top 10 priorities. So, many times, it is very important that if you want to drive Organisation in a particular manner that you have to give that direction, you have to steer people efforts in that direction. And this is more relevant now in a virtual environment where you can't have face to face interactions, you can't have meetings face to face.

So, it becomes important that some of these things are communicated on regular basis, then only they will be buying and something which I talked about ‘What is in it for Me’ is very important so it has to be a handshake, where the employee should also feel that if there is a value which is happening, obviously everyone works for money so that remains a priority for people. But at the end of the day, if a person knows that this is what he is trying to achieve or this is the value that is getting added, you will see that cohesive behaviour. So, that's something which I wanted to mention I hope I've answered your question

AITD: You have answered the questions and I would say 2-3 things that have emerged very strongly out of your discussion is that clarity is very-very critical. I mean if you have to drive the positive culture of the Organisation, as you rightly said that there were 10 priorities which were listed at the beginning of the year and everything revolved around that. So, clarity was one, second is what is very-very important in a dynamic Organisation is the communication part. As you said it is happening at all levels and people are engaged, they are communicating and that gives a very-very vibrant culture to the Organisation. I just go back to your vision that you want every employee to be an entrepreneur.

So, what are these new workforce latest strategies that can help bridge the crisis response to the new normal, like we have undergone a crisis? So, what workforce-related strategy you can think of which can help bridge the crisis response to the new normal by laying the foundation to thrive in the aftermath?

Now we have survived, now it's the time to thrive. Survive and now thrive - how do leaders instil trust in the new employee relationship onsite, online, and as you mentioned is the hybrid model.

Mr Anuj Mathur: So, I think what is more important in this environment is empathy because these are difficult times. And I think, employees, I have seen, are also kind of struggling between personal life and work and all that, so empathy is important. And when I say empathy is important, I am not saying that we should not be a hard taskmaster. In fact, in our Company, we chase each actionable and the timelines set and there is clear accountability. But, along with this kind of culture of execution, it's also important to understand people's needs in this kind of environment. So, that is something very, very important and meets face to face or meet virtual environment. If you have empathy for people, if you think that they are your long-term assets in the Company then I think people will also develop respect for the business, they will develop respect for the Company.

So, I think in this virtual environment it's important that while most of the discussions are happening on kind of Zoom calls or WebEx or whatever, we should not forget the human side of it. And let me tell you, the last 9-10 months have been extremely, extremely difficult for people in the Corporate World. While initially there was a lot of excitement of work from home but unfortunately this work from home environment, virtual environment, the boundaries have got blurred. So, there are no fixed timings, if you are in office you know at least you are slogging for 10 hours or 11 hours and then you are back home. But now in this environment, you have to virtually slog for 24 x 7. And this is the kind of commitment which we have seen from our employees that people have said that okay, these are difficult times and people are slogging hard for business.

So, I think, respecting that hard work which people are putting in, keeping them motivated, ensuring that they have a purpose and long-term growth in the Company. So, these are few things which are very important for any leader to kind of communicate to people and I strongly believe that whether it is the virtual environment or it is face to face, if you can create this kind of environment where you have empathy for hard work, you have to be hard taskmaster, I am not saying that you can relax, you can say that okay it's fine. Work is still a priority. But having that human angle is very important and what we have seen is that even in the COVID environment, people deliver, they deliver to their best level and we have seen that while the personal priorities are also there, people say openly - okay for 2 hours I will be off the work, that's fine, because when you are working for rest of the day, you are working as per the kind of flexible hours, you want to. So, I think Respect and Empathy are the two important factors if I can say two important ingredients for any successful business. And that's something which we demonstrate in this business.

AITD: In every Organisation, a strong leader who has clarity, who can communicate and who can empathize will be able to emerge out stronger. As I said, it was time to survive and Organisations are trying to do, as you mentioned that you are trying to do everything for the well-being of the employees to make them comfortable, the leaders were approachable. Now it’s the time to thrive as I said, we must capitalize on whatever things are there for the growth of the Organisation.

So, how does the Organisation capture and scale up the productivity that can come with the new ways of working specifically the new combination of virtual and hybrid?

So, you may see that it will be a hybrid model. So, how do we scale up the productivity part?

And how do you accelerate the individual learning curve so that they become more and more productive to capitalize on this because a lot of time is saved while working from home at the same time?

Mr Anuj Mathur: So, I think I call this an investment in people. You must invest in people in terms of upscaling them, in terms of training them and providing the right tools. So, what we have done, because face to face, classroom training are not possible, we have Virtual Training which happens and clearly, then we tell people that this is something which is there for you and you have to invest your time because I strongly believe that the need for training or the urge for training or the urge for upskilling has to come from the employee. So, that's where I think you have to make it very clear to people that if you have to be relevant for the Organisation, or if you want to be successful in your career, you have to invest time and energy into it. We have got tools.

So, we have enabled it digitally, and we monitor also but we don't force, this is something which we kind of encourage people that if you invest in learning and development, it is for your benefit. And as I mentioned we have started with e-learning we had this E-learning module for quite some time for many years, we had. So, that is something which we are using very-very effectively. The first few months of lockdown, which was a complete lockdown period starting from the third week of March till about the end of May, we trained our sales fraternity, sales colleagues who actually converse or interact with the customers digitally, and needed training programs for them, we kind of did hand-holding. And then we saw a need for a different kind of work. After the lockdown, people are now out there and they are interacting, but as you rightly said in the beginning ‘‘Physical’’ is the new model, and for people to be kind of successful in ‘‘Phygital’’ mode, it's important for people to understand the digital ways of doing things. So, that's where training has helped and we have invested, as I mentioned, we have got tools, we have got the infrastructure, we have got ‘E-live’ as our online training module where people go through these courses and then they do their assessment also.

AITD: I mentioned earlier also that people must be digitally aligned beside and instead of the one-day module or two-day module, face to face, the whole day they are having bite-sized capsules of one and a half hours or two hours of that. So, how they scale up or how they develop themselves is very, very important, we have to see. It’s very important like I have been a sales trainer, so I know that first connect, getting a buyer from a customer is very-very important which was slightly better in terms of face-to-face ecosystem, but which is difficult to build upon digitally so that is something if they are learning it and they have arrived at that how to converse with because people are hard to press with time. I was just going through a Salesforce research on the future workforce development, which showed that 70% of managers believe that formalized workforce training programs will benefit employees’ productivity while 69% believe that they will boost preparedness for future disruptions in innovation.

So, I just want, because you mentioned a very important thing, which I can think of and you said that it has to come from within. It cannot be forced. So, how do you think that what mindset people should have and what kind of ecosystem Organisation should build that people should come forward that this is something that they require rather it being forced upon them?

Mr Anuj Mathur: Right. I think there are different views on each training piece, which is more effective, face to face is more effective or online is more effective. So, we can debate on that for the next one hour and we will not get a single view. So, that's the reality. But I strongly feel that and I mentioned that also that urge to learn, urge to innovate has to come from inside. And to some extent, it is also driven by necessity. So, we saw during April-May when there was complete lockdown that people were forced to get into the digital mode, so be it WhatsApp presentations, all these things happened on their own. But I think if there's a desire to learn and desire to innovate, then obviously people find ways and means and particularly the audience we have here today, they are all, most of them would be Gen-Z, and I think they are much better in terms of use of technology.

Now they have many more ways to kind of understand what is happening globally. So, it's not just about India but also understanding the global practices, I think data is very, very important, which is available now so whatever you want to understand what to learn, it's just available at our fingertips. All you need to have is desire and as an Organisation, we support that. So, for all the learning needs, within the Company we have a sales training department, we have an L&D team within HR, where we customize Learning modules but at the same time, I think it is very important for people to understand and to know that for them to be relevant in the Organisation if they want to do something professionally for their professional saa satisfaction, that urge must come from inside.

As a Company we can only provide infrastructure, we can tell people to undergo training programs, we can assess them also. But if that desire is not there from inside, then it's not going to happen and particularly in a virtual environment, because you can just switch on your video and audio and you can just be a passive listener, but that doesn't help.

So, I think enablement is something that employers can do, which corporate can do, and desire is something that has to come from employees from within. So, that's how I see things evolving, and if you ask me about the long term also, I think people who invest in themselves, are the people who are going to survive, are the people who are going to thrive. So, people must understand the need for learning and development and do it themselves rather than being forced.

AITD: E-learning is something which is there for so many years now. I mean how people have taken it as it is evident that a lot of content is available on Google, so it's not about the knowledge part, it's more of this important skilling part. And as you rightly said it should come from within.

Second is, I am building upon what you said is the engagement part. In e-learning what happens is you just going through the content part and you just getting more and more knowledge. But if it is more engaging, if it is more life, more energy and thing like that I mean that's what we try to build upon in our virtual training sessions. The trainer is such that he can engross the audience, only then because it is more of an important practitioner approach.

It's not about ‘gyan’ it's not about the knowledge part which you can have it anyway. So, how you get that across is important and that's what we also do a lot of the research on. He should be engaging, if the person is willing, he should be engaging and it's in a bite-size environment how they can take it up in the right manner.

One last question, I would ask you Mr Mathur is that, how do you see the Indian workplace of the future evolving in the next five years since we are talking about the future work? You have already taken a lot of initiatives, innovation, how do you see it will evolve? What will happen in the next 5 years, things will come back to normal, it will be hybrid, I just want to listen from you, and our viewers would like to know?

Mr Anuj Mathur: - Right. So, I think five years is a pretty long period, and it will be a sort of a guess from my side if I try to answer your question that how it is going to evolve in five years. I can talk about the next year, at best. I can make a shot maybe for the next two to three years. So, I think it's not going to be the same as it used to be in the past. I think virtual engagement is what people are kind of doing now and I think they are reaping the benefits also. So, in my view, I think it would be a hybrid model which will work going forward. And people will find these virtual ways of engagement much more convenient and kinder of trendy for them, for example, today in a virtual environment, if you have to get into a customer engagement discussion, you don't have to restrict yourself to the working hours; that the discussion has to happen between nine to six. It can happen at any point in time, at per the customer convenience.

So, I think this is the new normal. And, as we say, disruption helps. So, I think the pandemic was a big disruption, which all of us saw, and I think we are adjusting to new normal, and people are comfortable now. So, I think it will be a mix of both physical as well as digital in the next three years, you will find that people will get adapted to this new normal. And not even three years, next one year itself, you will find that this will become more of a kind of new normal and people will adhere to it so next five years could be completely different. So, the concept of office can completely go away.

Click below to watch the recorded conversation.


Click here to know 'Corporate Learning Solutions'


Moderated by Ashish Sahu


Explore our solutions - Click here