In his book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb provided many valuable insights that are relevant in today’s unusual times: “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and uncertainty. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic snowballed from a health crisis to a global economic crisis, creating an unprecedented disruption in the world of business, our leadership at Times Group huddled together to proactively address two things:
The well-being of our employees and the continuity of our business. The “reset” button was pressed, meetings arranged, minds put together to address the demon looming large. Our work, workplace, and workforce were aligned even before an official lockdown was mandated across India.
Being in the media industry, remote working was unheard of, yet we were successful in the seamless transition on the business contingency journey from brick-and-mortar to a virtual work model. The government of India classified newspapers as essential services and one of the best ways to address fake news. Our employee superheroes were working hard to ensure “real news” was delivered every single day at the doorstep of our readers, to ensure they were educated and informed.
Our focused people strategy. This made our HR team work closely with the business to help strategise, stabilise, and mobilise. We adopted a three-pronged approach to ensure business continuity, boost employee morale, and ensure employee well-being:
- Tool set: Ensure work continuity by providing requisite support, infrastructure, and resources for employees to be productive, especially as they adapt to new ways of working remotely. IT infrastructure enablement, virtual working, VPN, and informative sessions on remote working were all part of the plan.
- Skill set: Build trust with every individual and communicate that we were all #InItTogether. We focused on creating a virtual learning and engagement ecosystem so readers could learn, engage, be aware, and be appreciated. Hence, LEAP (Learn, Engage, Aware, Praise) was launched with defined objectives: cross-functional collaboration, seamless communication, empower and engage employees beyond the workplace, and — most importantly — deliver a positive employee experience. We achieved all this and more as virtual learning and engagement sessions were segmented, designed, and implemented. Subject matter experts conducted live sessions ranging from financial planning to ways to keep self and family safe as part of our master class series. Efforts were made to engage employees and they were encouraged to share their work-from-home experiences.
- Mindset: We consciously focused on the well-being of every individual and interventions to drive the wellness quotient. Health and fitness initiatives were introduced to employees and their families including yogic practices, sessions on functional therapy, addressing and enhancing emotional quotient by engaging through quizzes, games, and trivia, and challenges on multiple online platforms. Aligning an individual with their purpose and using our virtual volunteering programme resulted in a 76% increase in volunteering activity while ensuring more rigor in our diversity and inclusion initiative.
Every crisis presents an opportunity. Increased connection, collaboration, and engagement were some of the outcomes. Having 60% of the workforce and their families participate in one or more intervention was a highlight for us. We honoured our campus hiring commitments and strengthened our position as an employer of choice. As a result, we saw tremendous organic growth in our employee advocates, who shared their experiences across the industry.
We released a new employee handbook across the organisation to re-orient employees with the new normal and provide guidelines on the changes in the new work arrangement to ensure safety for themselves and others.
I strongly believe the ultimate measure of an individual is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and adversity. The question to be asked by the organisations that hope to build antifragility must be: What can we do now which will make our employees remember us in future?
Employees will never forget the compassion and care demonstrated by us when they needed it most, even if it entails certain difficult measures undertaken in our journey. That’s the sure shot way to increase the antifragility quotient and vaccinate the organisation for any potential black swan event in the future.
Banner photo courtesy of Jonathan Borba from Pexels.