Alibaba launched Taobao when employees were forced into quarantine during the 2003 SARS outbreak in China. Taobao is today amongst the world’s largest e-commerce website.
Working remotely has been growing even in the pre-covid phase. Some relevant data points from the US:
- 43% of Americans work from home occasionally (Source: Gallup survey)
- 5.2% of U.S. workers (about 8 million people) completely worked at home in 2017 (Source: U.S. Census)
- A LinkedIn survey found that 82% of workers want to work from home at least one day per week and 57% want to work from home at least three days per week
But the scale at which corporates have been ‘forced’ to allow their employees to adopt work from home (WFH) during the present crisis is unprecedented. This exposed them to the reality that WFH can be a very effective cost-saving cum talent-retention tool with the potential to actually ramp up productivity. Some have started wondering why they were not doing this already. Many will want to structure this better for the future. If any corporate does not get it, their competition and some of their best talents will ensure they understand this quickly. What’s more, even the government authorities fighting inadequate roads, rising pollution & congested cities with now even more depleted budgets will start seeing this as a panacea. Work from anywhere (WFA) gives the employees even greater freedom of choice – they can actually live their life out of their homes in completely different cities at a lower cost of living while taking care of their ageing parents and living their dream life of something like a part-time organic farmer. Maybe there’s hope for a Mumbai or a Bengaluru and even for our agricultural sector after all!
WFH or WFA requires the corporates to adopt new practices and digitise the relationship between them and their employees. While it surely involves many areas, virtual learning has to be one of them. Many corporates will use this crisis to completely rethink their L&D model.
A US national survey in a September, 2019 article in HBR reported that 61% of hiring leaders viewed online credentials as equal to or better than those completed in person. While there could be some forced acceptance in many corporates given the current disruption, it is definitely a good time for a serious relook. There is a certain reluctance to acknowledge that online is not just superior in terms of cost but also on flexibility to employees, consistency in quality, learning outcome measurement, transparency in content delivery and significant saving on time spent in training. The last point by itself is the single biggest reason why line managers are generally not enthused by the current offline training system.
Classroom engagement is often quoted as another drawback with online learning. But with gaming options and community learning tools, online is probably an even more appropriate learning mode for the millennials and especially, the Gen-Zs. To those living in denial, I encourage them to do a google search on the size of the online gaming industry. Most managers make the mistake of taking feedback on such items from line managers - they should instead ask their kids back home!
We can help. We are shortly getting ready with a skilling platform that will help retail banks train their new employees using their own mobiles in the safety of their own homes. The biggest impact of the lock-down has been on newly recruited employees who suddenly found the large visual presence of the organisation’s support structure missing. We hope to do our bit to keep them engaged and bring them up the curve.
This too shall pass. We hope and pray that this pandemic slows-down quickly and somehow disappears as fast as it appeared and humanity moves soon to a new and safer future.
In the meanwhile, the retail banks can use our modules to get battle-ready for the potential ramp up in business in the post-covid era. The smartest like Alibaba, would not allow a crisis go waste.