Healthy and Human Workplace, For the New-Age Workforce
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
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The last 13 months have never been boring, not once. We started off in August 2019 with a boom. We were growing 30 per cent week-on-week. Six months into delivering the next level experience for Indian bus travelers, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. It made us rethink and re-strategize our business. We focused significantly into building the next generation product by using the latest technologies. It directed us towards safety and training programmes to get better at what we do. And now we’re back to our workplace, at 50 per cent capacity and strict adherence to safety protocols. One of the most valuable parts of our journey, so far, has been the pursuance of creating the perfect workplace culture for a new age workforce. So, how did we do that?
We have always sought to create an environment where every person is entitled to do what is necessary for the business. That’s the belief we started with. Consequently, the first learning in our expedition so far is that when people love what they do, they are 10 times more productive and come up with creative solutions than issues. Give them meaningful work and empower them to make right decisions for the business. Empowerment is an important factor in creating that perfect workplace culture.
We believe in the virtue of ‘high agency’. High agency is “a sense that the story given to you by other people about what you can/cannot do is just that—a story. And that you have control over the story. High agency people look to bend reality to their will. They either find a way, or they make a way.”
We have created a true silicon valley culture where individuals are empowered to make highest order decisions, there is virtually no micro-management and each member is treated with respect for what they do. As we look back in the last 13 months of starting up, eight months have been through a pandemic. Although we had to work from our homes, at 100 per cent for almost 8 months and now at 50 per cent capacity, we have kept our spirits up. As a team, we are getting stronger and stronger. We learnt that this was possible because our collective alignment to our mission kept driving us.
As a company, we are extremely serious about the livelihoods dependent on the business. Ensuring this has been our second most important learning. We are making this possible by building a workforce, block by block, with high ownership instilled in the DNA. Whether it is an individual contributor or a leader, every one must be on ground, with his and her sleeves rolled up, getting things done. Our hiring strategy is tied to this approach where we look for people, across levels, who can own and solve problems. Instead of encouraging a culture of people management, push for one of responsibility and accountability. When a workplace rests complete trust in its people to make the best use of their time, it maximizes the growth of both the company and individual careers.
Our third learning is that the new age workforce asks for challenging opportunities and great leadership. We are going through the whole cycle of a pandemic, sailed by safely so far and are becoming stronger every day. We have imbibed a higher sense of purpose towards our brand promise—a reliable brand known for timeliness, safety and comfort. You may call us a customer obsessed company. Our workforce is performing better on all the three parameters, especially Safety. We have built a better technology stack to ensure 100 per cent uptime even while on reboot mode. As a team, our efficiency is at an all-time high. And this seems to be working well outside-in too because we are doing better in our business with lesser routes compared to pre-COVID.
Fourth learning is the human way of doing things. For example, we do not believe in penalizing people for taking leaves or as work is getting done. Paying attention to what's 'friendly' propels faster adoption and, therefore, a happier set of people. This happens when a group of people think alike, when their intrinsic compass moves in the same direction. For us, it translated into being hands on, solving problems, not giving excuses, and being accountable. We believe that this is the human way to fuel success rather than hiring people and then placing processes to align them to the company mission.
What really matters to the new-age workforce are opportunities, challenges and empowerment to make decisions to solve them. Organizations must hire people who fit in their cultures and have the relevant skills. Again, leveraging the latest technologies matters. It gives the workforce time and energy to improve their skills. So instead of spending time on what is repetitive and mechanical, bring in high agency people who solve problems in a scalable manner to create a higher quality of work.
Realizing that an employee will perform to the exact degree that they feel valued, respected and recognized helps an organization create a better workplace. Essentially, the answer lies not in high-level strategies and plans but a more human approach. One that involves communicating with and knowing your people. Prioritizing the enablement of a perfect workplace does not mean that your business results, customers, clients or stakeholders will suffer. In fact, it means the exact opposite. When your workforce feels ‘at home’, they perform better and business thrives. That’s what everyone wants.