NEW DELHI: As many as 72 per cent of organisations feel that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt beyond six months and the single-biggest concern for continued remote working is fall in productivity, according to a survey by consultancy and advisory services provider E&Y.
The ongoing health crisis is also forcing organisations to re-look at the HR processes and operations through a digital lens, said the EY survey titled 'HR resilience planning - COVID-19 impact and preparedness'.
The survey incorporates first-hand perspective of HR heads or chief human resource officers of over 100 organisations across sectors in India on the impact of COVID-19 and their preparedness to tackle the current situation, E&Y said in a statement.
"While the COVID-19 impact can be felt by organisations across sectors, 72 per cent of the organisations stated that its impact will be felt beyond six months," the survey said.
It further said, "Around 70 per cent of the organisations believe that the single-biggest concern for continued remote working is fall in productivity."
As a result of organisations re-looking at their HR processes, the survey said, "More than 70 per cent of the organisations are now moving to virtual methods of recruitment, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and machine learning are leading this change."
The survey also said that less than 50 per cent of the organisations are prepared to manage this unprecedented crisis that they are facing today, while less than 35 per cent are prepared if the crisis escalated and less than 10 per cent have undertaken contingency and scenario planning.
Commenting on the findings, EY India Partner and India Workforce Advisory Leader, People Advisory Services, Anurag Malik, said, "Today, organisations are grappling with an unprecedented crisis that is fundamentally different from what they have ever experienced. In this hour of crisis, the HR function has to be a business partner in anticipating change, co-creating a range of scenarios and planning for the future."
He further said, "It is also the right time for the HR heads to recalibrate their priorities, focus towards managing remote workforce, digitalise the HR function, and re-imagine workforce models."
Highlighting the changing ways of working in India, the survey said, "Around 87 per cent of the respondents currently have travel restrictions in place in addition to the mandated ones."
At this time of crisis, organisations must adopt to the changing ways of working, and invest in the right information technology (IT) infrastructure and build in structured mechanisms to institutionalise remote working, it said adding that those that were not accustomed to virtual working have faced the heat and have had to mobilise IT infrastructure and set up data security protocols at a short notice.
According to the survey, ensuring workforce productivity while working remotely is a concern area.
EY India Partner, Workforce Advisory (Africa, India and Middle East), People Advisory Services, Gopal Nagpaul said, "Organisations will need to focus on building work alignment and work control through a structured work allocation and communication protocol."
Providing meaningful work to employees, increased focus on business improvement and transformation initiatives, and e-learning and certifications can be explored in this time of crisis, he added.
He further said initial priorities of IT infrastructure, basic communication and operations support are now fading into the background as new priorities emerge.
"Going forward, we need to focus on sustaining productivity in the context of remote working and shutdowns, ensuring wellbeing and engagement in case of sustained remote working, and building cost management options in case we face a deeper economic downturn," Nagpaul added.
When it comes to cost management, the E&Y survey said 55 per cent of organisations foresee medium-to-significant impact on employee cost, while others are still unclear.
"Many organisations have adopted an employee-centric view and trying to protect the junior management, a few are also offering additional pay-outs, hazard pay to support their workforce through these tough times," it added.
Only 22 per cent organisations are thinking about manpower optimisation in the short term (maintaining an employee-centric view), while 35 per cent organisations want to look at optimisation in the future, basis business impact and in line with the newer ways of working, the survey said.