Understanding the pulse of your employee is important.

Kaustav is having 14-years+ of experience in MNC, handling HRBP functions for Industry like FMCG, IT, and BFSI under various HR banners: HR Strategy Implementation, Talent Management & Development & Succession Planning across levels, HR Transformation, Change Management, Employee Engagement, HR Generalist and HR Operations, L&D and Training, Performance Management, Statutory Compliance & Payroll, Campus Recruitment, Project (Bulk) Hiring.

Kaustav is currently working with Reynolds Pens India Pvt Ltd (Subsidiary of Newell Brands) managing India & South Asia, Writing Division.

Previously he was associated with H&R Block India for handling all HR gamut's as Interim Head Human Resource, Bajaj Allianz managing HR operation in Pune HQ as Deputy Manager.

Thank you, Kaustav, for agreeing to do this interview with us. Kindly be as candid as you can.
Let's Start!!!
How does the pandemic year affect you? What changes, professional and personal, does it bring into your life?

This pandemic has taught us an important lesson on being Innovative in our work way techniques, Importance on our health and health-related activities, quality time for our near and dear ones. As an Organization, since Covid Inception time, we have extended a WFH for all employees across the globe ( Till today), Digital Employee Experience program for our employees, Timely Merit Increments and extra allowances, Covid 19 Relief measures -which means the extra amount as allowance so that they can buy all essential stuff's without spending from their pocket, increasing the coverage of Health Insurance, free vaccine drive, an extra amount payable for employee's and family members who are under Home quarantine and finally ensuring reimbursement of Insurance policy for employees & family members taken from the open market.

Thanks to our Management for extending all support.

If I speak on some change elements it's more towards learning as to how we can make our system more efficient and regulated towards specific needs of our employees, employee benefits, reviewing our insurance coverage, think of ways how we can support our employees & family all along, ensuring WFH support and finally a healthy and positive WFH culture.

From the personal front, it means spending more time with family, equal participant in household chores, ensuring a good family time post office work hour, more focus on staying fit, eating healthy, and watching a few good movies on Netflix 🙂

In your role, do you think work-from-home is a boon or a bane? What challenges, if any, did you face in maintaining a work-life balance? What will be the new definition of "work-life balance"?

Ideally, some situations are unpredictable wherein you just need to adjust and try to yield the best result out of the same. This pandemic was unpredictable also the WFH culture. The initial thought was how we can sustain in long run and have such a different work pattern, but credit goes to our employees who have paved the way and shown us that work can be done from anywhere plus maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Statistics say/many companies found out that WFH has yielded maximum productivity compared to normal times. So, we are grateful to all our employees across the globe.

Talking about Work-Life balance, there are examples where Organizations have extended WFH permanently, few ensured a 3-4day working, few have come up with employee choice-based workdays, etc based on employee's comfort and make a fun-loving environment culture. (This reminds me of our Fish Philosophy strategy). So, it's important you must try to gauge what your employees want and act accordingly. I firmly believe an Organisation's strength lies on the shoulder of employee's and all is well if your employees support you well.

In the remote work environment, how your organization is ensuring employee engagement? What are the prominent elements of NEW work culture?

We at Newell Brands (Reynolds Pens India Ltd) are dedicated to varied Employee Engagement Activities. In this critical phase, we ensured celebrating every moment with our employees, celebrating National/International Holiday, L&D Digital session, encouraged employees to undergo company-sponsored free courses for his/her professional/personal benefit's, Health & Well Being Awareness sessions, surprise vouchers, or party pack for Families couriered to their home address, Online games, a sneak peek at employee's home workstation, chitchat session with family members of our employees, etc.

Some of the prominent elements of new work culture include - More flexibility and enhancing a dynamic employee-centric work culture. Understanding the pulse of your employee is important and accordingly, get your homework done.

We all know the importance of mental health. In the past, many companies tried to downplay the element of mental health. As an HR Leader, what is your take on the mental health of employees? What are you doing to influence the leadership team and put the criticality of mental health on their discussion table?

Mental health has been a prime focus during these pandemic times. We have an inhouse vendor (global) who assist our employees by catering to various webinar's, online session with experts in the related field. Our employees can also call them (anonymous) on any issue they are facing could be financial, personal, family, workforce, etc. Also, locally we conduct various events like - connecting with our employees (formal/informal), 1:1 session, skip-level meetings, stress-free activities, and, workshops, etc.

One of our legacies has always been on Employee Mental Health Awareness and we have defined a set of principles and rules to follow on the awareness part. So, it's not an influence approach but a mandatory part wherein we need to abide by all parameters sung under this arena.

As per your experience, in a virtual environment, what are the key elements to ensure meaningful collaboration and accountability among team members?

This reminds me of different types of Teams that we studied in the Organizational Behaviour subject and if you could recall ‘Virtual teams' we studied all about then and now we are experiencing the same 🙂

As on Organization, we always stress the following points:

  1. We understand our employees are always communicating on virtual platforms, but we follow certain ground rule book guidelines wherein they should have limited meeting sessions a day and should not be overburdened at any point in time. Like Lunch hours, post office hours we encourage employees not to keep any meetings and they should enjoy family time.
  2. Friday especially, we keep 1-2-hour sessions every month for various activities like - Happy hours wherein the team can have informal chitchat with their stakeholders or Heads, Engagement activities, Learning & Training course sessions, online games, etc.

To summarize the key elements that all Organisation should focus upon:

- Communicate & communicate more with your employees.
- Trust your workforce.
- No Micromanagement but rather give them the flexibility.
- Say Hi and do Thank their family members because we understand how well employees are balancing their work-life balance.
- Appreciating and motivating the workforce very often.
Lastly, what is your message for those students who will be graduating during this difficult time? How should they keep their morale high and stay motivated?

I think the situation has drastically improved and off-late hiring is also up. I was going through a report wherein it states that 56% job market will be up in 2021-22 and there shall be an immense requirement for fresher/students in India. This is indeed good news for all student's and it's time they should capitalize on the opportunity.

Few quick tips for graduating students:

  1. Do focus more on your competency level.
  2. Pursue some additional degree/certification which might come in handy.
  3. Hone yourself on various extracurricular things and be updated on current news.
  4. Case study, data, and market research on varied/upcoming topics/articles/news lines shall help you gain outer knowledge and could be useful during your Group discussion/ Interview.

Just believe in yourself and be very focused on what you want to do in life. Your journey ahead is directly dependent on your confidence, zeal and, urge to make things happen. All the very best for a new beginning!

Thank you so much, Kaustav, for your time and for sharing wonderful insights with us.
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