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Early bird wins!
Meenakshi Roy (Sr. Vice-President – Human Resources, Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd.) motivates India Inc. to invest in smart offices as she provides a foundation for handling the future employees’ needs
Issue Date - 01/07/2012
Q. What is your idea of the office of the future? How can we start preparing for it?
A. Today, there is a evident shift from cubicles to collaboration-oriented office spaces. Open floor plan is being explored in an aggressive manner in the west and it is slowly gaining acceptance in India. With sustainability and IT being the buzz words, big corporates have started investing in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified ‘Green Buildings’. Such office spaces have proved to be sustainable, both economically and environmentally. The move to a paperless office is now a reality, but in the Indian context it will take some time before we see it take root.

For employees, ergonomically designed work areas with a heavy bent on technology for communications with no dependence on paper is the future of office spaces. Given the high cost of real estate in any central business district, flexible work timings and work-from-home options will become the order of the day. With cloud computing catching up in a big way, it will not be long before we see virtual offices. The offices of the future will be smart offices – high on energy savings, low on waste and optimum space utilisation with technology being the backbone of all operations.

It is always best to be one of the early implementers of a positive trend, and here investments in smart offices will pay off in the long run.

Office automation and intensive IT-led communications coupled with work space reorganisation can pave the way for quick adaptation of changing work place contours. Eventually, high levels of productivity with low investments in infrastructure is what all corporates will look at.

Q. How can organisations cope with the changing employee behaviour which could be the result of new aspirations?
A. Having an ear to the ground and a receptive attitude to employee needs will help an organisation grow and retain the talent. The old will always change yielding place to the new, but the changes in the employees’ environment with respect to their own aspirations need to be mapped on a regular basis. A close watch of peers in the same industry as well as those outside the sector should be maintained if an organisation has to understand the needs of its own employees. Attrition is generally a function of changing aspirations and sooner an organisation adapts to this the better placed it will be. Acceptance of employee feedback and visible measures to implement what is reasonable within the framework of an organisation’s stated goals will help organisations adapt quickly to changing employee aspirations.

Q. How will the functions of HR change in future, especially in a virtual workplace? What change you can foresee in the hiring and firing process?
A. HR leads an organisation by finding the best fit employees and also by retaining them. However, the functions of HR have evolved over the years and are more strategic today.

It has become important to focus on people, culture and values especially when offices are turning into virtual workplaces. HR will increasingly contribute in achieving targets that will make the business successful and sustainable. Motivation and improving skill sets of employees are key responsibilities of HR today and this will continue to play a major role. There will be more dependence on data-led decision frameworks and analytics that will help making employees more productive and in turn profitable.

With good talent being scarce, hiring and firing policies are also going to change in the coming years. High attrition has always been the nightmare of the HR department. If employee actions are drastic in nature and affect the reputation and business of a company the firing policies are bound to be strict. However, low productivity despite repeated training and counselling can also lead to firing. Both factors will continue to remain in the future. Hiring will depend a lot on skill sets that a prospect comes with besides learning abilities. Multi-skilled prospects will be high on demand while at senior levels there will definitely be a focus on sector specialists.

Q. What will happen to performance-related pay? On what factors will the performance appraisal system be based?
A. Performance needs to be recognised and rewarded. With the demand for productive employees rising in every sector of the economy, performance-related pay will not see much iteration. At present, pay for performance is a prerequisite compensation, sometimes comprising 10 per cent of the average basic salary. Usually compounded and given quarterly, half yearly or annually, it aims at a stronger ownership of the employee with the company.

Having said that, several organisations are moving to 360 degree appraisals, where your peers, juniors and bosses rate you, as they are more often seen as a better judge of a person’s interpersonal and operative skills. The ability to do a job effectively, correctly and in the best possible time, utilising the resources available is the key factor in an able performance. Also performance under pressure and the ability to keep everyone coordinated and in the loop is a factor in determining performance bonuses.

Q. How do you see the professional and personal life of an employee being affected due to the prevalence of BYOD (bring your own device) concept at the workplace?
A. Opportunities to grow are always personality driven. Almost everyone nowadays has a personal device, be it a laptop or a tablet, an external drive, or any other handheld device. Working from the comfort of your own device leads to higher productivity. The flip side to this practice is that strategic or confidential information can be compromised. Mature workforces may be able to adapt to such work styles but it is often perceived as working for a company that is not doing too well.

With the proliferation of handheld communication devices, one is forever networked and just a call away but it has led to intrusion of one’s personal space and time. This often leads to burnouts and diminishing productivity.

Q. Do you think Indian companies can match the pace at which the MNCs are changing and innovating their workplaces?
A. The IT, entertainment and media sectors besides some manufacturing companies have managed to keep pace with MNCs in terms of changing and innovating workplaces.
Sayani Sinha Roy           

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