COVID-19 Roundtable Discussion: Perspectives from APAC

April 10, 2020

Perspectives from APAC

Members from Australia, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Europe convened for an open  dialogue on how their companies are navigating the pandemic.

This recap is from a conversation on April 8, 2020. Approaches discussed may have already changed in this fluid environment. Because of the sensitive nature of parts of the conversation, member names have been omitted.

Getting Back to Work and the Changes to Come

  • Very different situations in different countries in the region: Countries across the APAC  region are in various stages of the pandemic, with Australia, India, the Philippines and a  number of other countries ramping up or enforcing strict lockdown measures, while China, Singapore, Taiwan and some others are gradually re-opening worksites while guarding against secondary outbreaks. More so than in Europe and North America, this dichotomy demands a country-specific approach to workforce and workplace policies.
  • Transitionary periods: Two members with large employee populations in Singapore, Hong Kong and China described a phased approach to the return to work. One member company has already implemented a two-week grace period in Hong Kong, wherein offices are “open,” but attendance is optional for all employees. Those who need to continue working from home may do so. The goal is to make people feel safe and to give them time to make arrangements for dependent care.
  • What will our business look like in a year?: One member in an industry deeply impacted by the economic fallout of the crisis now has a senior team focused on the company’s long term recovery—estimating that it will take 12 to 18 months to ramp back once the pandemic has fully subsided. “We’re thinking about the businesses we may need to exit, as well as redundancies that have become more apparent in this new environment.” One such
    redundancy is office space. The work being accomplished while teams are involuntarily remote is demonstrating an overabundance of real estate in one member company’s
    portfolio.
    Changes long discussed, but suddenly executed: Several members remarked on the crisis’ accelerant effect on long-considered changes. One member reported that her company had previously attempted to pilot both a “Work from Anywhere” program and an electronic chain of custody regime for critical documents. Both pilots failed to make much progress because of stiff opposition from work councils in Europe. Now, both programs are active companywide and resistance to them has evaporated.

Maintaining Productivity

  • Keeping the focus on KPIs: One member company has taken a unique approach to KPIs, with companywide messaging directly from the CEO. KPIs will not be used to calculate performance awards in 2020, but they are not “going away.” Instead, leaders have asked their people to thoughtfully re-assess where they are and what can realistically be accomplished. From there, the company is moving resources to “hold ourselves to our KPIs
    as much as possible.” Consistent messaging from the very top has helped align expectations in a way that is “really helpful to our people and the business.”
  • Training and upskilling while unable to work: Members are uniformly pushing out more and better digital learning resources to help people effectively work remotely, deal with stress and broaden their skills. One member reported that her company has ensured all remote training programs remain open to those who are currently furloughed, with encouragement from leaders that furloughed employees’ jobs will return and the skills that they are improving now will pay dividends in the future.
  • Rethinking performance management: While productivity remains a priority, several companies report that they are modifying how they track individual performance amid the
    crisis. One member company has completely “thrown out” performance metrics in the near term. Another member shared that her company’s performance management process has
    not formally changed, but leaders have taken steps to make it far less onerous and time consuming—relaxing many reporting requirements and decoupling some financial incentives.
  • Recognizing outside commitments: Several member companies reported that they are maintaining flexible hours for those working from home. In addition to the much-discussed
    challenge of dependent care, one member highlighted the additional significant community demands her people must now navigate. Her organization has long seen value in encouraging its leaders to proactively support community organizations and non-profits—as both board members and active volunteers. Now, many of those non-profits are leaning heavily on board members and volunteers to stay afloat—increasing the overall workload
    already overburdened leaders.

Wellbeing

  •  Maintaining connectivity among employees: Virtual meet-ups, coffee hours, recipe sharing, video calls (with pet and children cameos) and the like have become a standard practice across nearly every member company. Several member companies, including Lendlease and Micron, reported overwhelmingly positive responses to more frequent and less formal communication from their CEOs and other senior leaders.
  • Buddy system for those at risk: A member shared that her company has implemented a matching program, assigning a “check-in buddy” to those who report stressful situations
    affecting their ability to work. The same company has also repurposed some HR team members as fulltime “employee advocates,” focused entirely on wellbeing.

Thank You

Thank you to all who participated for your energy and enthusiasm! And thank you to our friends at Mentora, Hitendra Wadhwa and Raghu Krishnamoorthy, for joining us.

If your team is dealing with similar issues or have questions you’d like answered please fill out the form below!

April 8 COVID-19 Emergency Member Session Recap Perspectives from APAC

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