The Stay-at-Home phenomenon as a result of the Covid19 pandemic has greatly impacted not only the health of humankind but also brought the already worrisome dwindling economy into a deeper crisis. Many of the senior professionals would have had faced similar crises like SARS, H1N1, etc. over the last three decades or so, but Covid19 has entailed very unique adverse upshots. And we are here to witness the fallout.
The immediate impact of Covid may sluggishly erase but not absolutely get eradicated. It will remain a part of our ecosystem, and will change our lives forever, like many other viruses, and we will have to get accustomed with it. Nonetheless, this unprecedented dilemma has brought us to think and act very differently, unlike similar situations in the past. We need to sharpen our thinking and explore a fundamental shift in the process of management.
On account of Stay-at-Home -- the forced economic inactivity, almost all the business entities globally have suffered loss of business, negative cash flow, loss of profit, and massive fall in terms of revenue. Only a few industries, like IT, telecom, essential consumer items and healthcare are able to largely manage the situation by virtue of the need of the hour and the workforce being kept engaged through the new norm ‘Work-from-Home’ (WFH). WFH is no more just a buzzword but a real phenomenon for the new generation workforce.
Many companies have suspended or significantly reduced operations. Young startups have been impacted as funding has fallen. Those in the informal sectors and daily wage groups are the most at risk. A large number of farmers are also facing uncertainty. One of the most important ecoindice, the employment data, is also staring at a bleak future. According to available data, the employment scenario in the country, already worrisome pre pandemic, has been completely shattered by the resultant Stay-at-Home. The forced economic inactivity has affected the cash flow of the corporate sector, which has led corporates big and small to introducing drastic measures including workforce restructuring and formulating a balanced cost effective solution. These are unprecedented circumstances and hence standing strong with the corporate, various stakeholders on one hand, and especially its employees on the other has become highly pertinent.
The unemployment rate has surged to over 25% from a pre pandemic average of approx 7-8%. And as per some media reports, the number of people who have lost their jobs till now across sectors could be over 120 million. Due to the current pandemic and the containment measures, most economies across the globe, despite sops being offered, are unlikely to see turnaround of the economy until the end of 2022. Isn’t then, in such a predicament, the corporates must assume greater responsibility to reimagine their business strategy and come up with an out-of-box stimulus to ease out the unemployment situation?
On one hand, the corporates will have to wade through the rough seas of the new business dynamics to meet strategic way forward, inter alia possible drastic cost optimization measures; on the other, remain empathetic and compassionate for the cause of the employees. Let us not forget that the “Employees generate business and deliver result leading to the profit and successful growth of an enterprise”. Hence they occupy a prime spot in the grade of all stakeholders.
The world is impermanent and deceiving, and thus the situation shall continue to remain dynamic and unpredictable as a fait accompli. I strongly believe the initial depressive situation at the onset of the pandemic, is lessening, and undeniably, gradually evolving towards a more definitive reengineered environment with multiple remedial measures to address the business challenges. Many corporates and their managers are working on options or already have had the first cut POA ready – more positive proactive thinking is in play. Real test for the corporates is seen at the time adversity in the way they live up to the values.
Hereafter, nations, corporates, communities, citizens will become more health, safety and environment conscious – will become more disciplined, develop more empathy of others health and well being, keep the environment, roads, neighborhood clean, and act in a sensible manner to protect and not destroy nature recklessly. A new beginning is in offing, a new outlook, a fresh approach towards life and livelihood.
In this quandary, the corporates, especially the HR fraternity, assume greater accountability, for taking some bold and advanced steps to see how one can reengineer various activities to successfully meet the ensuing impact on the business and environment, once the Stay-at-Home gets lifted. The business units will revisit the strategy, short-term and long-term plans, and there is no playbook or a ready reckoner to steer organisations through this uncertain situation. With this humble presentation, I bring to you a new perspective into light and am sure it will make some sincere impact for consideration at the decisive level.
The concept, is about the corporates facilitating employees start an occupation and breath life into their livelihood especially of those who see no light at the end of the tunnel, in the possible exit plan of a corporate, as part of reengineered business strategy. The corporates encourage its employees to create their own personalized career ladders by identifying and creating such opportunities. It would entail creating self-driven business opportunity with the support of the company. Forward-looking corporates and people driven by the spirit of entrepreneurship would surely lap up such opportunities.
Before I delve into the details let me quote a proverb “when the fishermen cannot go to sea; they repair nets” and another one “when you fly high in the sky and see dark clouds, the only way to negotiate is to fly higher”. The cliché is “Think different; Think Progressive”…………..
Multiple approaches are being contemplated and are in the process of deployment to reengineer the business scenario especially optimizing costs and working capital, cutting down on overheads, rationalization of workforce cost, like, pay cuts and scaling down salaries, renegotiating the terms of employment, stoppage of increments and incentives, hiring freeze, and importantly workforce restructuring through layoffs, exits/ trimming.
Exit/trimming as an option, though not a willing choice per se, to meet the business need, will definitely have a far-reaching socio-economic spiraling negative impact on the morale and motivation of the workforce in the midst of accumulative unemployment, apart from having negative impact on the goodwill of the corporate. Becoming unemployed, with the stigma attached, loss of salary and finding reemployment in this grim market as it is difficult, would instill a sense of fear, deep impact of demoralization and demotivation all across. This will have tremendous adverse impact on the productivity, growth and overall business across sectors. The HR fraternity, to address the situation, is continuously debating multiple approaches on social media to arrive at plausible solution(s). One such concept “Emppreneur” is suggested here as an alternative solution. A possible new age win-win solution for workforce cost optimization.
WHAT I MEAN BY ‘EMPPRENEUR’:
Emppreneur is a mixture of two words Employee and Entrepreneur. It denotes an employee who is being facilitated by the company to become an entrepreneur
An employee becomes an independent provider of service, as part of exit/separation plan, facilitated by the company – an autonomous self directed role, providing service to the ex-company on the same activity(s) carried out by the employee before separation
An employee who was to be exited due to workforce rationalization or otherwise but has been engaged to carry out the same work, on a fee based outsourced basis; thus saving substantial cost of the company and at the same time accommodating the employee in a gainful self-employment, at a certain sustenance level, without putting the employee in complete disarray/ jeopardy
An employee who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of an enterprise with the operational assistance of the company
The idea gets germinated from the indigenous thought of making employees get gainfully employed after having lost/resigned the job, and possibly seeing no light at the mid-path career. This also makes the corporate to save cost on each such individual who are made to become emppreneur, and at the same time, for the employees to remain active fearlessly to manage his livelihood without carrying the stigma of being separated by / exit from the company.
Emppreneurship in tandem with the ex employer would prove to be financially and operationally beneficial for both the employers and the employees. It comes as a long-term cost effective strategy of the company and also to retain workforce inclusive of those who want to move for greener pastures. The continuity of the plan is measured based on target achievements and the progress made during the period in question.
WHAT THE CORPORATES STAND TO GAIN:
Perceived as a progressive, empathetic corporate guided by the core value of concern for employee welfare
Encouraging employees to become emppreneurs, as part of exit plan, boosts organisation culture – caring for the well being of the employees – thus enhancing company image – Good place to work for
Save cost to the extent of 25-40% of the overall all-inclusive CTC or even higher for senior team members, viz. Savings of PF, medical plan, travel cost, incentives, bonuses, café cost, business travel, housing, car, driver, office rentals etc.
Get the same work done at a reasonable cost than outsourcing to third party
No notice period payment need be made. But will depend on the discussions and agreement arrived at between the company and the employee. A reasonable severance amount could be considered to tide over the initial monetary setback
Emppreneurs would possibly become incredibly accountable to deliver quality and result per SLA
Confidentiality maintained and information being kept with the same individual
It will limit procrastination and enable enhancement of productivity across the board
However, the company will have to carry out a feasibility study before implementation, to assess the cost-benefits and its impact on overall business and perception by the team as a whole. A long-term or even a short-term strategic objective must be defined. A few pointers are suggested here:
Map all reductions in line with the future business strategy especially based on the capabilities
Prepare a list and communicate 121 with each of those impacted employees who are to be exited/ resigned
Communication must be sharp and transparent with complete package discussed in toto
Assess the competence and confidence to make an employee an emppreneur
Activities the employee is currently doing and what is it that the company could offer to carry out post exit
Should the arrangement be made for a fixed/ extendable period of time on long term basis
Carry out complete end-to-end calculations of the overall CTC burden of the employee
Calculate the sustenance fee that could be offered. It may or may not be negotiable as long as it works out to be reasonable.
An estimated figure at 80-90% of the monthly take home salary (not the yearly overall CTC) for the junior-mid level could be considered and progressively lesser at senior levels, so that in general, the sum offered shall be in addition to the normal monthly cash flow and sustenance of the employee
Discuss the option with the identified employee(s) in toto transparently and then make the offer
It would be wise to allow time to the employee to contemplate over the option and return with a firm mindset to embark on the journey as an emppreneur. It would also give him time to discuss with and gain support of his family members.
WHAT THE EMPLOYEES STAND TO GAIN:
As an emppreneur, one carries a positive image in the society than carrying the stigma of being exited and remaining unemployed, even if for sometime
One carries the impression of being still useful and on whom the company has trust
One carries the brand of the company that made this possible
A sense of freedom to manage oneself and the opportunity to become more responsible for achieving something new in life
Better work-life balance and value time with family
One can create own schedule and flexibility of work as long as one meets the quality and deadline per SLA
Possibility of proper tax structuring to save tax burden
Develops vision to be positive - responsible for own success - focus on achieving the result
The emppreneurship would enable creating a resilient mindset to get knocked down and get back up over and over
Nonetheless, there cannot only gains but also challenges the employee will have to face. And some key challenges are:
Emppreneurs will have to move beyond responsibility into hard fact of ownership of delivering result
Manage entire infrastructure on ones own
Keep up with the rapidly changing ups and downs landscape
Stay relevant to the needs of the ex company and keep learning and updating skills on one's own
Create own path of career progression
Responsibility enhances as the task would require to be completed within timeline and SLA
Manage own tax obligation
At the senior level may have to give up few luxuries
The employee, who is on exit mode and has been made the offer, however, will have to seriously introspect and decide on the course of his transformation into the role of an emppreneur. He shall have to:
Incubate the idea to get into the shoes of an emppreneur
Understand own strength, willingness and confidence to manage self driven endeavour
Map his own competence and credibility
Evaluate how to organize, manage, and assume the risks of emppreneurship without the F2F help of the co-employee/ manager and how to manage through the digital world
How to keep motivated at one's own workplace without the day to day interaction with the co-employees
Discuss with family members on the outcome of such an arrangements and the prospects and potential going ahead
One can become a successful Emppreneur provided one
Creates value and deliver in time to continue to remain an emppreneur
Takes ownership of the new endeavour
Remains resilient and push the boundaries of innovation and quickly adapt to situation, plan instantly and execute it without losing much time.
It is a fact that corporates always value entrepreneurial skills and have increasingly made efforts to make employees think and act like entrepreneurs. The corporates must have deployed multiple ways and means and enormous resources to make this happen. In the perspective of such an endeavour the concept of emppreneurship comes as a welcome supplement. It is not an easy approach though and would require a resilient long-term thinking.
As much as the corporate provides the opportunity, the bigger onus lies with the employees. Even in absence of any proposition from the company, the employees can also approach and make a plea to the company to provide the opportunity with a firm proposal and way forward. It has to be a two-way process to make the emppreneurship successful. In an exit situation, transitioning from an employee to emppreneurship to be ones own boss, though may not have much choice, but would be as exciting as it is difficult. An emppreneur shall have to play the role of a head chef and a plate washer, who gets the opportunity to own the business, run the business and is responsible for the failure or success. One would gain success if one were to learn to create streamlined systems that accomplish crucial tasks required of him.
An emppreneur can venture out of the ambit of his ex employer and create a Go-to Market Strategy for growth when the confidence has grown full bloom with the clear fulfillment of the contract of agreement as agreed upon at the start of the emppreneurship. Over time, explore a step forward for further opportunities to become a solopreneur and then on an entrepreneur based on inclination to spread his wings widespread and growth potential.
If the situation arrives when one can’t keep going, one can easily think of closing the shutter and make attempts to go right back to the corporate world.
As such, the concept of ‘Work-from-Home’ (WFH), has come to be indoctrinated into overall work culture across workforce community in the wake of Stay-at-Home situation. WFH has become the order of the day. The concept of emppreneur cascades in the same genre, and it is worthwhile to note that the Millenials, GenZ believe in more relaxing work environment and look for employment where they get to do work independently than falling in the scope of the corporate rigmarole. The emppreneur comes as a welcome alternative for the corporates to adopt as a better option to retain talent, make alternative cost effective tool for the exit resources, as well as to hire talent at more economic consideration.
The concept of Emppreneur should be perceived not as one off post-Stay-at-Home resolution but must be adopted as an ongoing long-term business strategy to optimize cost and get better output. Going ahead, with the unpredictable business perspective, this win-win alternative of emppreneurship would be most valuable if preserved as an important blueprint in the overall organizational strategy.
“Never, never, never - in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give up” Winston Churchill