Dr. Karan Gupta, Founder of Karan Gupta Consulting

Dr. Karan Gupta is an activist, speaker, writer, and career counselor. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and IE Business School, graduating with degrees in Psychology, Business and Law. He opened Karan Gupta Consulting in 1999, providing career guidance and information on international admissions. Dr. Gupta has written and contributed to many leading publications like The Times of India, Education Times, Hindustan Times, and platforms like Rediff.com, and Youth Incorporated thus providing students career counseling and admissions advice. He was awarded for his efforts by the Wharton Business School, the National Education Awards for “Outstanding Contribution in Education,” and the Times Genius Award by the Times of India. Dr. Gupta was awarded as a World Leaders Asia in London.

Here are his 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 beginning of the lockdown due to COVID-19, all of us were scared not knowing what is in store for us. We were worried about how working from home would be possible and how would be able to give clients the same level of service that they are used to. In our case, we are fortunate that each employee has a high performance Macbook and access to high-speed Internet – two of the most important factors when it comes to work from home. Logistically we did not face any issue and from day 1 of the lockdown, everyone was logged into a virtual office link on Skype. The virtual office is a great way to work because everyone is seeing each other, talking to each other and hence there are no issues relating to communication. Without a virtual office, work from home would just be replying to emails/calls and no interaction with each other. I believe that no interaction with each other, would reduce employee performance.

Have you taken any proactive measures to maintain employee performance?

We have more meetings that we normally would. We set out goals to achieve and work towards them. Inquiries from new clients have been slower in the last couple of months and hence we are using this time to work on new projects that would increase our own efficiency as well as increase client satisfaction. These projects have kept us busy and it became easier to measure employee performance – we can see what contribution each employee is making to the new projects. We can also measure how effectively employees are interacting with clients and generating new leads.

Will there be any changes to existing appraisal methods? Process, Frequency?

Our appraisal methods were based on seniority and dedication to work which would include attendance and punctuality. However, we have now moved to a client-satisfaction based appraisal. If clients are satisfied with the services provided by the respective employee, the employee would receive a bonus. If a client gives negative ratings to an employee, the employee would not be eligible for a bonus. COVID-19 has taught us that we have to move towards a 100% client satisfaction model and employees must be trained to understand that their growth in an organization is solely dependent on clients.

In managing performance, how has the HR role changed in the current situation?

Work from home has it’s own set of challenges. We have to take into account distractions like other family members watching TV while you are working, children and pets running around and family members expecting you to contribute to household work, just because you are home. What this means for HR is that, more concessions must be given to employees in terms of time.

Do you think formalizing feedback and/or regular performance check-ins will make a difference?

For sure – more time must be spent with employees helping them understand what they did well and what areas they need to work on. One must remember that during COVID-19, people are concerned for their own safety as well as the safety of their family members. It is important to be kind and if stern warnings need to be given, they must also be followed with praise for the good work that employees are doing. Regular check-ins with employees is very important during this time to understand what challenges they are facing and how their performance can be improved.

With employees and managers all away from each other, what steps are being taken to ensure clarity on work objectives/goals and their priorities?

At the start of the day or week, objectives must be clearly defined. The work expected from each employee must also be spelt out. If logging into a virtual office for 8 hours a day is not possible, then logging in at least once a day with everyone from the office is mandatory. This is the only way to avoid communication gaps and to ensure that work is being done correctly and with ease.

COVID-19 has changed the way we think and the way we work. We now have to constantly think out of the box and find new ways to engage both our staff and our customers.