Dolly Grover is the Chief Human Resource Officer of Space Teleinfra Private Limited. She has 29+ years of experience as a Human Resource specialist in scaling up Businesses in diverse industry sectors, such as Telecom, Food & Beverage, and IT, and previously have worked with organizations such as Bharti Airtel, FieldFresh Foods Pvt Ltd (Del Monte), Alcatel, and Ballarpur Industries (Thapar Group), in various capacity in the HR function and has been in the leadership role for more than a decade. She has proven her capability in creating value and scaling up businesses in diverse industries.
Alongside her rich experience, Dolly is also a Certified Leadership Coach (CLC) accredited with International Coaching Federation, USA, and has been conferred with the award of the 100 Top HR Mind in India Award in February 2018 at World HRD Congress.
Dolly holds a Master’s degree in Social Work (Gold Medalist) from Delhi University as well as PG Diploma in Personnel & IR Management from Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan.
Here are her key experiences in the industry in relation to the current COVID-19 pandemic and WFH situation.
What is the impact on employee performance in the pandemic situation?
Our Organization, Space Teleinfra Pvt Ltd is a leader in the Digital Indoor Solutions space, with over 50% market share, spread across underground metros, airports, hospitals, educational campuses, corporate parks, hotels, malls etc. Considering our pan India presence across major cities, our employees performance has not been adversely impacted in the pandemic situation. On the other hand, since we as an Organization, come under Telecom Essential Services, we were able to contribute towards ensuring uninterrupted network connectivity during the pandemic. We received full support during the complete lockdown from the State Administration to procure e-passes, especially for our Technical and Deployment teams, who were hence able to visit our sites in a timely manner and ensure that there are no network snags and 24*7 connectivity is maintained for all our key Customers ie RJio, Airtel & Vodafone Idea.
Significantly, with the increasing indoor consumption of voice & data connectivity during the lockdown, we launched two new adjacent business streams ie Outdoor Small Cells & Roof top Poles for congested areas requiring higher network capacity & throughput specially in metros and large cities. Alongside, we launched our Fibre subsidiary RANext Technologies in May 20 looking at the FTTx business opportunity across Residential, Office and Retail complexes.
Employee performance was taken full cognizance of despite the challenging situation during the Pandemic. Employee appraisals were done virtually through the PMS module on the HR internet portal ie Lucid Emplify and the entire process was closed across the Organization in a timely manner with complete due diligence of having a virtual performance assessment dialogue with the Reporting Managers via MS Teams. To make employees comfortable to work from home, we had given the required infrastructure support as per need like wi-fi connections, laptops etc and provided MS Teams training. Now, MS Teams is our normal way of working rather than a new normal as we thought last year.
Additionally in our performance assessment, KRAs are designed as per the Balanced Score Card framework and our Performance review process also addresses the “How” of reaching one’s targets – keeping in mind the challenging environment, market situation and delivery challenges. eg in case an employee has achieved 80% of his target vis a vis an employee who has achieved 100%, the performance rating of the 80% achievement employee may be qualitatively comparable to that of 100%; it may be so because the achievement of 80% was quite challenging and difficult with respect to the geography and business environment etc. The employee performance rating is relative and caters for this. This kind of approach helped us in a thorough approach to employee performance assessment and in turn ensuring no negative impact on the employee.
Have you taken any proactive measures to maintain employee performance?
We had taken several steps wrt a monitoring and governance mechanism in order to maintain employee performance vis a vis ensuring Organization growth. Few things which we did proactively were :
- Supported the employee completely during the tough period of COVID -19, which is still ongoing.
- Each employee was given relevant training to connect via MS Teams ensuring higher work efficiency.
- Conducted inhouse Technical and Soft Skill Training (“Pathshala”) providing multi-skilling and continuous training, ensuring the teams are motivated and gainfully occupied especially the ones who had gone to their hometown – constituted approx 6096 hours / 762 Mandays training
- Followed a stringent review mechanism across HO & Circles – a defined meeting agenda and circulation of Minutes of the meeting to ensure a focused approach towards achieving our common purpose of Organization delivery. Such governance helped in maintaining employee performance at its best.
- We also conducted virtual events and COVID talk sessions to keep the employees motivated and mentally as well as emotionally strong to enable them to take this phase head on and be positive in their approach in both their professional & personal life.
- Our Organization invested in both People and Processes to make it future ready. We had expansion across circles and Head office – nearly 100+ hires with 80% new positions. We also ensured that the employee was completely secured with respect to salary disbursement which was done timely month by month along with increments and variable pay / performance linked incentive payment.
- Effective virtual onboarding along with Reporting Managers also helped in initiating new joinees to take on the baton and also start their journey with the Organization. Getting their KRAs closed in the first 30 days became the key task so that there was complete clarity on what needs to be delivered and what would they be measured on. The KRAs post discussion with the Reporting Manager were uploaded on the PMS Module on HR internet portal – Lucid Emplify.
- Circle Mentor calls with a Senior Leader defined as a mentor of each circle helped in creating a connect with each and every employee of the circle irrespective of the level and helped guide them through the tough COVID time and ensure that they were focused on delivering the larger agenda of the Organization. We started this process during the COVID lockdown period to maintain circle and employee performance by focusing on the opportunity rather than the adversity of the situation.
Considering the way we handled the situation as an organization, we were able to successfully take our employees along an aligned Organisational journey and were able to maintain employee performance at its best given the adverse circumstances which anyways impacted our initial Annual Operating Plan.
Will there be any changes to existing appraisal methods? Process & Frequency?
In our Organization, the way we sailed through last year, there are no changes envisaged in the existing appraisal method, its process or frequency.
To my mind, considering that the employees have worked under immense pressure during the last year so it is important to ensure internal coherence and build a better image of the Organization. This can be achieved only if we remain consistent in our approach towards various employee processes including a timely Performance Management System (PMS)which helps overcome ambiguity, if any, in the Organization which may arise due to current COVID situation.
Equally, it is important to appreciate the work done by the employees through a timely, fair, and transparent appraisal process. It helps build an internal equity and also helps in developing a goodwill in the market and in turn a good brand image to attract new talent and retain the existing talent. It is also crucial to have the annual appraisal process to assess the high performing employees vis a vis the low / average performing employees basis which the salary increase and promotions are determined.
We are a people centric organization and with motivated people at its core, we believe that we can overcome any challenge and put our best foot forward to ensure the delivery for the Organization. This is being done by ensuring that we are consistent on all policies and processes like Appraisal process, Reward & Recognition, Appreciation Marathon, Code of Conduct and so on. Consistency refers to the timeliness of each activity, reiterating the process and making the employee a part of the process through a clear and transparent communication including quarterly virtual Employee Communication Forums (Open House) with the President and the Leadership team.
Do you think formalizing feedback and/or regular performance check-ins will make a difference?
To my mind, formalizing feedback and / or regular performance check-ins will definitely make a difference in getting all the employees on board and gunning towards the overall Organization objective.
Formal Feedback process is the key to ensure that an employee is aligned to the Organization basis a fair and transparent dialogue where in the employee and the reporting manager
- are provided with a formal setting to have a dialogue – virtually or physically.
- solely focus on employee performance based on the work done vis a vis the defined KRAs
- engage in a dialogue which envisages a discussion with constructive feedback and factual instances / incident cited.
- discuss regarding potential and career growth.
- work on the employee self-development plan to progress further.
In our Organization, we provide two formal feedbacks sessions –
- Mid-Year Review process – sometime in Nov-Dec. This is a formal dialogue with the Reporting Manager on the progress check of the employee with respect to their KRAs – on the way forward, gaps for which support may be needed and some calibration which may be needed. No Rating assessment is given.
- Annual Review Process – sometime in May-June. This formal dialogue is bases on the full year employee performance assessment vis a vis KRAs. The rating assessment is done in this phase along with the career discussion and self-development plan on what skill is further required by the employee.
In the above formal feedback sessions, the employee is encouraged to have the dialogue first with his / her reporting manager and then fill the same online on the PMS module to avoid any back and forth on the automated tool.
Apart from this, employees are encouraged to take accountability and onus of their own career and have regular dialogues with their Reporting Manager.
Formal feedback and regular check in are important to ensure that the employee understands the criticality of his / her role in the large chain of the Organization. It also helps in creating a high-trust high-performance culture, which is key for the Organization growth.
With employees and managers all away from each other, what steps are being taken to ensure clarity on work objectives/goals and their priorities?
With the COVID situation, we have ensured business continuity across the ecosystem by adopting a hybrid style of working – ‘work from home’ + ‘work from office’.
With employees and managers all away from each other, we worked on an effective approach to ensure a performing, sustainable and future ready organization through
- Disciplined Review Mechanism across HO & Circles to ensure that the business & functional teams are focused on the need of the hour and re-strategize their focus on an ongoing basis.
- Ongoing Clarity and transparency in communication so that employees are provided with a safety net and security so that they focus on the Organization delivery and not worry regarding the uncertainty of the situation.
- Ensuring timely KRA closure with the employees so that they are focused and are fully aware of what is expected of them.
- Circle Mentoring calls ensured so that the employees get timely guidance and knows what is expected from them.
- Virtual HR session with the employees to make them understand the PMS process along with other HR processes reiterating that the onus is on the employee to take charge and close the KRAs with the Reporting Manager.
- One-on-one Connect sessions with employees by the HR members to understand the concern they are facing both personally and professionally and working on supporting them to the best extent possible. The sessions were conducted on a formal platform wherein employee was helped to focus on what needs to be done and what is expected on the Organization front.
We as an Organization have focused on ‘Caring and Connecting’ with the employees during the pandemic – which is still ongoing. Through this approach, we have worked closely with the Functional & Circle Heads to ensure that each employee is taken care of both personally and professionally along with clarity on what needs to be focused on in the larger scheme of things.