Industry Insider: Amit Das, Director HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Co. (The Times Group)
Sector spotlight: Media
Based in: India

Representing one of the largest media conglomerates in India, this CHRO believes that slowly and steadily, these new ways of working will enhance efficiency and productivity.

The number one talent challenge this sector is facing

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most unprecedented disruption that we have seen in our lifetime. Never has the world been so massively impacted by a single event, which started as a health crisis, and has snowballed into an economic crisis. The crisis has deeply impacted the media sector as well, particularly print media.

The lockdown has inadvertently increased the speed of change in organisations. We have had to re-imagine, re-engineer and re-haul our work, workplace and workforce to adapt to the 'new normal'. From focusing on business continuity to being empathetic to the workforce sentiments and their health and safety, these surely have been trying times.

As one of the largest media conglomerates in India, our ability to adapt quickly to this changing environment speaks volumes about our anti-fragility. Our employees are now working from their home offices across multiple locations based on their role. Virtual is the way to go, and we firmly believe that slowly and steadily, these new ways of working will enhance efficiency and productivity in the organisation.

Having said that there are numerous challenges that the sector is facing from a talent perspective. Today, talent is redefined as any capability which creates economic value for the organisation. And I would define "right talent" as individuals who are early adopters and agile learners, who will confidently deal with ambiguities and ensure collaboration to create disproportionate value for the enterprise.

Every crisis presents an opportunity, and going ahead, learning as an offering will be the new HR currency, with a conscious focus on skilling, upskilling and re-skilling the talent workforce. This will be the differentiator for every organisation and will enable a distributed workforce to enhance and adapt with changing work processes, capabilities and expectations.

This will also give rise to several challenges in the internal and external scenario as the war for right talent will intensify.

Developments that are intensifying this challenge

Keeping the current scenario in perspective, talent is not physically restricted to any space, time, form and can belong across the continuum of direct to the indirect workforce. This is further intensifying the challenge of attracting and retaining the right talent.

Going forward, employees will evaluate employers not only on business performance but also on resilience shown during the crisis. Employees, i.e our internal customers, prospective employees in the job market, customers & other stakeholders will neither forget nor forgive any behaviour and action demonstrated by the organisations during this crisis.

Hence it is crucial and critical for the continuity of both our consumer and employer brand experience to protect our brand reputation.

Unfortunately, employer branding or brand promise has taken a back seat for corporates who are struggling to manage business continuity in the midst of this crisis. Hence, this would be a critical area which would further intensify the challenges and impact the continued attractiveness of the employer brand.

Best practices: Strategies that have worked in tackling this challenge

We have consistently focused on business continuity while being empathetic to the workforce sentiments and their health and safety. Even before the lockdown was announced in India, we adopted a three-pronged approach.

Through focused tool-set interventions, we ensured work continuity by providing necessary support, infrastructure and resources for employees to be productive, especially as they adapted to the new ways of remote working.

Through skill-set interventions, we created a virtual learning and engagement ecosystem so that one could learn, engage, communicate and be recognised. Relevant topics ranging from people managers managing distributed teams to training people on dealing with ambiguity while managing their finances, we introduced and implemented myriad training opportunities, touching each aspect of an individual's life.

Additionally, through focused mind-set interventions, we consciously focused on the wellbeing of every individual with an intent to drive the wellness quotient upward through multiple health and fitness initiatives.

In my perspective, what has set the tone for us has been the balanced transformation of work, workforce and workplace.

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The next big priority for HR professionals in this sector

My firm belief is that, going forward, we need to mobilise and build capability within the HR community to leverage the right technology and build inter-connectedness to drive distributed & dynamic capability management, across this redefined talent spectrum for a wider workforce, which will enable creation of a future-ready, networked organisation. 

How CHROs are proactively preparing for the future workplace

Over my career across varied organisations, I have observed that business stakeholders have looked up to the HR function to bring significant expertise that helps them understand the most crucial element in their successful delivery – people. The position of the HR function has significantly moved from an administrator to a value creator. This holds especially in my current organisation, where the business model largely relies on content creation. Hence, our people become our most valuable asset.

As the Chief Human Resource Officer of such an organisation which is also one of the largest media conglomerates in India, you will agree that every day is different for me. I am incredibly proud to be associated with an organisation which has played a significant role in nation-building for over 180 years and at the same time has constantly evolved with changing times.

Agility and adaptability are two key pillars that I swear by. Having said that, I always keep an eye for the North Star, which is the long-term vision that we have for the organisation and the HR Function. Today's unusual times one need unique wisdom to pre-empt and manage disruptions and drive business sustainability creatively.

I believe the HR function has a considerable role to play in business resurgence in the coming times. Building capability and equipping my team to ensure that our organisation comes back stronger and at the same time, as an industry leader, sharing my learning and wisdom with professionals in the HR community to ensure we can collectively emerge stronger from this crisis is something that is keeping me hungry and passionate.


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