According to a recent article in the Economic Times, 5 million salaried people lost their jobs in July in India. This brings us to a total of 18.9 million jobs. Although the validity of this particular study has been questioned, we don’t need numbers to tell us that many people have been let go across industries, cities and career levels.
But what these numbers don’t show, is the true number of people who have suffered, which includes those that may still have a job, but who have been subject to pay cuts and increased pressure to perform.
The COVID19 pandemic has been tough on business, small and large alike, though arguably harder on the former. Many businesses will not be able to survive. We all know this already of course, and that’s not why I am writing this.
What has been disheartening though are the instances where there is undue, and rather opportunistic pressure placed on employees.
As a corporate trainer/facilitator, I speak to people – both within and outside the HR function, and I’ve heard many stories of people not being able to make ends meet, who were working for companies that did not appear to be in any kind of immediate cash crunch.
One person told me that members of a certain community within their organisation received full pay, while others only received 25%. Somebody told me that their spouse has to work full Saturdays now because another person in their department was let go, and there is an implied pressure not to take leave or flex time.
Now, it’s not my place to judge individual organisation’s ability to pay or not to pay their people. Everyone’s cash flow situations are different, and I’m sure some cuts are coming because there is literally no other choice. I also will agree that perhaps that many have explored all other options, and come back with this as the only alternative. That is for their accountants and finance teams to figure out.
But where we do have a choice, and it certainly sounds like in some cases there is a choice, is it really the right thing to do?
Anyone that’s taken Human Resources 101, knows that the Human Resource is such that you can make 2+2=5 or 2+2 = 1. I forget the exact analogy they use, but you understand what I mean. Our people are our best resources, and it is in our best interest to look after them.
When people have to stress about making ends meet, that will become something that distracts them from being the best they can be for you.
But looking after them does just not mean throwing money at them, but it means showing them you are with them in good and bad, and that you support them, so long as they support you back. It is a relationship, and like most relationships it is nuanced.
As employers, often it is not just a salary package, but the small gestures we make that earn the loyalty of our people. Whether it is treating them and their situations with compassion, or making them feel secure that you are doing everything you can, it is important that we spend some time on this.
Consider also that today, in the COVID19 context, our teams are working longer hours, as the boundaries between home and office blur. Their lives have turned into a series of Zoom and Google meet sessions, punctuated by small periods of rest in which they have to complete the rest of their work.
Some have children, others elderly parents. Some have demanding in-laws, and others have to share working space with their partners who have as many video calls, if not more.
Morale is low, stress levels are high, and mental health is fragile. Small things make a big difference.
A final point is that as business conditions are tough, the one resource that is in the best position to help carry us through, is the human resource. Show them you care, and they will go above and beyond.
So if you are in a position to pay someone their full salary, please do so. If you are in a position to make them feel secure and comfortable, please do so. It is the right thing to do, from an ethical standpoint.
Also while they may need us as employers right now, more than we need them, this situation will not last forever.
If we don’t build their loyalty now, when things are tough, one day, when things are better, someone is going to throw more money at them, and they’re going to jump ship without looking back. And that may happen at a time you need them.
They will remember the small things we do, whether they are in a position to react right now or not.
Is it not best to make sure that those small things are the right ones?