Rising Beyond Adversity

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In March 2020 when the world was struck by the pandemic, companies large and small went into overdrive, reengineering their work, workforces and workplaces for the ‘new normal’. It was the toughest period for us at Gandhar Oil and personally for me as a leader. I recall being in a Board meeting and being asked if we expect our business to be impacted by Covid. I said – “No”. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Right from customers backing out of, or deferring orders to logistics and operational issues, to employees’ anxiety regarding their health, safety and jobs, 2020 from any angle was a tough journey to traverse with many sleepless nights. What saw us through was our agility and an unwavering focus on business continuity, productivity and the welfare of our people. I believe, these practices put in place by Gandhar will also see us through this second wave. This is how we are doing it and plan to evolve further as we all go through this pandemic:

  •  Reinventing our products for changing customer needs and markets

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Our liquid paraffin production lines, which typically cater to the cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors, gave us an occasion to serve a distinct need within the pharma industry, which also allowed us to serve the nation through this crippling crisis. It also gave us a chance to energise our production at a time when business was erratic. We quickly revamped our production to cater to the stringent and urgent need for liquid paraffin that is used in the production of the Hydroxychloroquine drug being prescribed in the treatment against coronavirus.

  • Ensuring safety in the work environment

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The vaccination would be a defining factor of employees’ willingness to return to work. This is true especially for employees who are at-risk or living with at-risk family members. It is advisable for organisations to partner with private hospitals to ensure employees and their family members get the dose. This initiative would help employees return to work more confidently. It would also build their trust towards employers and colleagues and others they would interact within the office. In the west in fact many companies have started what they are calling a ‘no jab, no job’ policy to ensure a safe and protective environment in the office.

  • Enabling reliable remote working

It would be fair to assume that in many cases employees have progressively made their home office more comfortable over the past months and have formed new work habits.

Even for employees working from anywhere, employers can improve productivity and performance gains from a widespread remote work setup by encouraging self-management and ICT skills, investments in remote offices, and fast and reliable broadband. In addition, the technology infrastructure also needs to accommodate security and privacy requirements, ranging from protection from cyber-attacks to protecting client data and setting transparency standards on data collection from employees.

  • Being Leaders who empower

Leaders wanting to stay on the front foot in successfully managing their teams during the crisis delegate and empower more and give their teams the confidence to make decisions. This requires a mindset shift in both the manager and the team members. Leaders can focus on continuously providing their teams a line of sight and the tools that enable self-management. That said, managers should be able to nudge the team members into the desired performance behaviour, should it be slacking.

  •  Creating a culture of meaningful communication

Work suffers when communication and information sharing is inadequate or infrequent. Last year a lot of organisations expressed this fear in the WFA/ remote working scenario that they found themselves in more so as it becomes a permanent feature. Communication is essential for the necessary knowledge flows to take place among employees. But it doesn’t stop there. Having open communication with colleagues helps build empathy, resilience, awareness and a supportive culture within the team and must be encouraged more so during this second wave of the pandemic with the unprecedented number of personal tragedies many have faced. Last year, virtual chats and video calls, though a new phenomenon for many, were whole heartedly embraced across generations because of necessity and such technologies will only continue to play a more important and critical role in our work and personal life. While the verdict is still out about whether they compensate adequately for the lack of personal communication but certainly act as an impetus for better productivity and performance.

  •  Building a learning mindset

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In the current scenario, learning agility is a key requirement for employees to adapt to evolving technologies and business models and keep pace with these changes. Leaders at all levels within the organisation should encourage employees to embrace a mindset of continuous learning and acquire new skills and provide the resources required. Organisational success hinges on the ability of employees to skill and upskill themselves and arrive at the desired growth and productivity level in sync with the organisation’s expectations and culture.

Last year’s wave of the pandemic taught companies to work in a new normal environment. This year we have learnt that complacency is not an option and things will continue to change drastically and rapidly. At the end of the day, it will be up to organisations and the leadership to demonstrate agility, resilience, empathy, faith and team work to emerge victorious over this pandemic

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