ARTICLES

Ajay Bhatia


Respected HR Leader


By Rajiv Tewari, Consulting Editor, MyKindOfJob.com

5th July 2016


Flexi policies are redefining the work places across the globe

Based on an interview of Ajay Bhatia, a well-known and respected HR Leader, with over 27 years of cross domain experience in the private as well as public sector organizations. Some of the notable companies he has worked for, include the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), HCL, RMSI, Xansa (now Sopra Steria) and IBM. His last assignment in a full time role till recently wasas VP-Corporate HR for Innodata, a US MNC and a global digital services and solutions company, where he led the global HR function and shouldered the responsibility for overall HR strategy and operations across 6 countries.

Ajay has now chosen to work with Innodata on a flexi basis as a Consultant to be able to focus on his professional interests, including completion of the Certified Coach Program (ICF). He now goes to Innodata only thrice a week. Ajay has won several awards and accolades in his illustrious career, both in individual capacity and for the teams that he has been leading across organizations. In Sept’15, he was awarded the citation of “50 Most Influential HR Tech leaders” by Asia Pacific HRM Congress at Bangalore.

Rules of the workplace are being redefined

“Rules of the workplace are being redefined in terms of the way we work, how we work and where we work. The policies, practices, competencies and technologies required to work, engage and connect with employees are undergoing a paradigm change. Developing countries are observing a significant increase in the Gen-Y and Gen-Z employees in the workforce. India, of course, is observing a major shift with over 50 per cent of its working population below the age of 32 years. The younger generation is increasingly demanding flexibility at work and if the corporate world wishes to attract and retain the best, they have to address it by going the flexi  way,” says Ajay.

There is an increasing trend among employers to offer flexi timings to employees. As per the Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), there are already about 1.7 million flexi workers in India. This has become the most sought after perquisite among the new generation now. One of the main reasons for this is the advancement in technology tools which allows virtual working from any place any time.

Employers are becoming increasingly sensitive towards the needs of the employees

There is a perceptible change in the employers’ approach due to an acknowledgement of the impact of modern day challenges and stress on the productivity of theemployees. According to Mercer Consulting, Indian employers are now more open to offering flexibility then in the past. One of the recent studies has shown a jump of almost 40% in the number of companies offering flexi jobs in India. Companies like SAP, IBM, Philips, Bacardi, KPMG and the Future Group, to name a few, are allowing facilities like work from home on selected days and the choice of choosing differential time slots.

How does the concept of flexi timing work?

Various models which are in use include flexi days, flexi hours, compressed work weeks, work from home & telecommuting. “In Innodata, most of the employees in managerial and support roles have a flexible 12 hours window with defined core hours for mandatorypresence.This gives themthe flexibility to plan their dayand at the same time allows themto meet the role requirements. Similarly, work from home, hourly-based working and part-time work models are also in use. Extra work performed on any day can be adjusted against short-work hours on another day. This has helped in promoting retention at work. As per feedback received from the regular employee engagement surveys, employees value this flexibility at the workplace and give it due weightage while considering any external career option,” shared Ajay.

Impact of flexi policies on productivity

Employees can work according to their bio energy clock by choosing to work when their energy levels are at the highest levels. Some of us have high energy in the morning hours whereas there are others who prefer to work late into the night. Allowing the employees tochoose flexi time schedules helps them in avoiding the peak traffic timings and allows themextra time to pursue interests, hobbies and to attend to important home related work. All this certainly has a very positive impact on the productivity levels of the employees. In a survey by Ford, in India, almost 97% of the respondents shared that they suffer a lot of stress due to the fear of meeting with an accident, non- availability of parking slots& reaching late besides the stress of driving in jam packed roads on a daily basis. Most of the employees spend two to three hours daily on the roads in the major cities. This time can be used much more effectively to raise productivity levels through flexi work policies.

Employee engagement and retention

Flexi-timing arrangements significantly improve the employee engagement as well as retention. “The retention rate of critical employees improves significantly once this option is explored. In one case, which I experienced  last year was when a working mother performing a specialist role offered to resign, and was planning to take up a job with a company 2-3 kms from her home. After talking to her, I discovered that the commuting time of about 2-3 hours every day was the bane for her. Offering her an option of working from home twice a week and flexible work hours while at office, helped in retaining her and also improved her motivation and productivity further” said Ajay.

Advantages & disadvantages of flexi work policies

Flexi work policy’s biggest advantage is that the employees consider it as a great perquisite for creating a good blend of work- life balance. The employers too gain through lower costs, higher retention &attraction of talent besides improving productivity levels. However, the flexi work policies need to be managed with great care and efficiency to avoid some major disadvantages. Lack of supervision can be counterproductive for some categories of employees. Flexi policies can also create a huge communication gap between the employees and the managers unless online and offline interfaces encourage a lot of inter dependence and team work.

Many of these challengescan be managed by studying the best practice companies. Some of these practices are:

1.    Clear policies on the working hours irrespective of the place of work chosen by the employees. This is important for collaboration specially in cases of project related work.

2.    Capacity to measure output during the working hours for accountability.

3.    Interdependence among the team members to ensure a high level of communication and interactivity, both online and offline through defined time slots and processes.

4.    Managers at the leadership level must appreciate a process and systems led approach instead of a personalized way of managing people. Flexi policies will not work unless there is a buy in from the top leadership team.

5.    Flexi working would require each team member, particularly the leaders, to be more responsive when a colleague needs help, guidance or collaboration. It will require a 24 x7 sensitivity towards others for ensuring immediate response on phones, emails and software enabled collaboration platforms.

The future is here and it’s great to note that the HR Leadership across the country is responding to the needs of a rapidly changing work culture. This is just the beginning and we will learn more as we move forward into an increasingly technology led working environment.

 

LEADER'S VIEW

Dr Manan Chaturvedi

Founder of Fortune Architect

Vijay Rai

Managing Director- Asia Pacific & EMEA Markets with Saviour US INC

Ajay Bhatia

Respected HR Leader

Shampi Venkatesh

Founder, P-Quotient

Deepak Bharara

CHRO, LANCO INFRATECH LIMITED

Sugato Palit

Executive Director-HR & Admin, Experion Developers

Amarjit (Amar) Singh Dhull

Managing Director, UK Fostering, Founder, UKINDO International & CharityWorld.com

Rishi Srivastava

Promoter & Director, Rockland Hospitals Network, Delhi

Mr. D.P. Singh

Vice President & HR Head- India/SA at IBM HR Consultant

Runa Maitra

Founder and a principal consultant with People Talent International

Mr. Dhyan Chauhan

Mr Chauhan has held leadership roles in HR at leading multinational companies

Ashish Bajaj

COO & Co-founder of Round Ark Limited, Gurgaon

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