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Rebuilding Economy – An Action Plan for post COVID 19

By | Ramesh Ranjan | Editor www.humanengineers.com

The COVID 19 pandemic has brought the word to its knees and to a standstill in most parts of the world. Its been one of the biggest shutdown on a global scale in the history of mankind. No one has a clear answer as to how this can be ended and how long will it take.

The COVID 19 pandemic is here to stay. We are hearing of relapse cases. So it may be cyclical. Hence one should expect frequent disruptions. Organization’s that are agile, have a robust & efficient BCP (Business Continuity Plan), are nimble and that adopts a People First policy are likely to tide over the choppy waters and sustain in the long run.

Nationalism will be on the rise. Globalization will be questioned and even under Threat. Countries will work towards self-sufficiency, In-Sourcing and less dependency outside of the Geographies.

It used to be said “Health is Wealth” and “Prevention is better than cure”. Hence Health will take precedence over all others across the world. Stricter Border movement controls will be put in place where International Travel and movement will be restricted to a great extent. Mobility will be the first hit.

European Union will also be in threat and could be disbanded much like Brexit, as countries would want to protect their borders.

Countries will bay for China’s blood as many feel that China did not do enough to contain the flight of the disease out of its borders. There is a huge trust deficit building against China world over. New geo-political dimensions will emerge. There will be shifts in balance of power as the dominance of China will start to wane. Hence a lot of economic activity will shift out of China.

Globalization will thrive but will be regulated. As long as countries economy thrives on exports, imports will continue. Hence there will be pockets of opportunities for emerging economies to cache in on this opportunity largely because of labor arbitrage.

This period will also be a test of character and leadership at all levels. Economic activity & social activity will be hit in a big way. How we behave responsibly now, during this period of crisis, will determine the speed of recovery and the containment of damage to the society, business and individuals.

“You can take my factories, burn up my buildings, but give me my people and I’ll build the business right back again.” — Henry Ford

Therefore Business Leaders must adopt a People First policy. They should put people interests above Business Interests. They should not jeopardize the Health, Safety & Lives of their employees at the cost of Business interests.

So how do we achieve this? An issue of this scale cannot be resolved by just one stake holder. Here is an Action Plan for all stake holders:

Employer

  1. Once the lock down is lifted, Organization’s should not be in a rush to reopen and OpenUp Operations in a hurry. They must adopt a gradual ramp up of business, depending upon how the COVID 19 pandemic is being contained.
  2. Reduce the number of employees in an Office, by continuing to allow employees to work from home, where ever possible. May be continuing for another 3-4 weeks depending upon the progress.
  3. For those who are required to come to Office/Factories, ensure the following :
    1. Adopt Employee Distancing & No Touch policy :
    2. Transportation / commute to work. Insist all employees to travel in company transport or in individual transport. Say no to public transport.
    3. Ensure Thermal Scanners at all mass congregation places like Canteen, Conference Halls, Buses etc.
    4. Start the screening from the Bus pick up point itself. Ensure that the employee is screened even before they board the bus at Home pick up points.
    5. Install Thermal Scanners at Security/Reception and scan all employees every day. If anyone found to be having temperature, to be asked to report to the Medical Authorities for screening for COVID 19
    6. Ensure that Sanitizer’s are made available at all Employee touch points or provide one to each employee and insist that they bring it with them and use them at all common areas and touch points
    7. Stop using Biometric attendance system, and no physical attendance register.
    8. Insist all employees use Face Mask while travelling and in public spaces in office, except in their own workstation
    9. Stagger Canteen timings and maintain distance between employees
  4. Provide or encourage Employees to purchase company standard Laptops for use at Home.
  5. No International Travel and no International Visitor to be allowed. Exceptional circumstances to be allowed only after Medical clearance from a competent authority
  6. Similarly for Domestic Travel and especially to Corona Hot Spots
  7. Adopt a No-Layoff Pledge for a minimum of 90 Days for all Employees including Contract Employees & Service providers.
  8. For the Lockdown period, don’t adjust leaves or cut employees pay including Contract Employees & Service providers
  9. Ask employees to work 1 hour extra every day or work on Saturdays to make good the lost working days due to Lockdown – where ever appropriate
  10. Defer Hiring where ever possible to protect current employees jobs
  11. Delay increments for 6 months to contain costs and save jobs
  12. If Business doesn’t recover and financial situation is worsening after 3 months, don’t rush into layoff. Adopt a pay-cut. Higher pay-cut (40-50% for Top Management and a graded pay-cut till the Bottom of the Pyramid (10-20)%. Everyone should understand the situation and participates in it.
  13. If Business doesn’t recover and financial situation worsens even after 6 months, adopt a Suspension of Employment policy, where in Employees services will be suspended and they will continue to be in the rolls of the company. However they will receive a subsistence allowance of 25% of Salary for a period 3 months and no-pay thereafter. Adopt a LIFO – Last employee In, First to Go. When business recovers these Suspended Employees will be re-engaged based on LOFI – last employee out, First In. This is to take care of older employees and to reward them for loyalty to the company

Business Strategy

  1. Implement a robust Business Continuity Plan to be adopted in very short notice. Work towards building an agile organization and sustainable operations amidst frequent disruptions
  2. Long Term work towards Cost Optimization, reduction of wasteful expenditure, sustainability of business (not living Hand to Mouth), long terms People Care policy
  3. Work towards a Talent Optimization strategy. Speed up automation, digital labor and deployment of right Talent and optimum Talent.

Government

  1. Ease the financial burden of Business & the people by deferring tax payments, repayment of loans by about 2-3 months to enable business & employees to manage the cash flow. No interests to be charged for delayed payment.
  2. India will have to adopt a two pronged strategy. Aggressively promote its Make India Strategy and encourage companies to limit their Imports and adopt a more aggressive Backward Integration strategy. Dependency on China to stop.
  3. India will also have to augment its infrastructure, upgrade its workforce and gobble up opportunities that comes its way as many countries will start pulling out of China or spreading its risks to other countries.
  4. Encourage Manufacturing in a big way.
  5. Reduce Taxes and improve Ease of Doing Business. Should not tinker with Tax laws every now and then. Introduce a long term guaranteed Tax Policy.
  6. While liberalizing the Labour Laws, it should make the Retrenchment Law mandatory for all organisations and at all levels and not restrict it to workman. It should ensure a social security for all employees by :
    1. One month salary (CTC) for every year worked
    2. Minimum notice period of 3 months or Notice Pay in lieu of it
    3. Introduce a National Employment Insurance Policy with contributions from employees, employer and the Government
  7. Today, we face a global problem, and it’s not customary to speak out about it. It comes down to the simple fact that what we are teaching in our Colleges today may not help them secure jobs and may even lead to their loss of work tomorrow. According to a 2017 McKinsey report, by 2030, robots will replace up to 800 million jobs that are currently performed by people. According to a 2016 study conducted by researchers at Oxford University, by 2040, working nations could see job losses of up to 47%.

All stakeholders must work together to ensure constant upgradation of skills in our future workforce. Government should give Tax holidays/subsidies to Education Sectors and to Employees for upskilling.

 Employees

  1. Behave responsibly and maintain social distancing for some time to come. Immediately call or medical help at any indication of a influenza, cold, cough or fever and quarantine themselves voluntarily.
  2. Avoid hosting, going to parties, pubs, restaurants, malls and other places for at least 2-3 months
  3. If working from home, work with same vigour and efficiency as at office and ensure highest work ethics at home
  4. Ensure to protect the Intellectual Property of the company that they work for and not compromise company’s digital security
  5. Constantly work towards upskilling themselves using online programs during free time
  6. Commit to work with the company during these troubled times and accept any cost optimization programs including pay-cuts in the interest of sustainability of the business in the long run.

How well we adapt ourselves in the coming weeks and behave responsibly will decide whether this COVED19 pandemic will remain a blip in the history of mankind or will it become a defining moment in the history of mankind.

It’s upon us to shape the future of the world.

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