Sonica Aron is the Founder and Managing Partner of Marching Sheep, an HR advisory firm specializing in Strategic HR advisory, Diversity and inclusion interventions and capability building. An XLRI postgraduate, Sonica has worked with companies like Pepsico, Vodafone, Roche Diagnostics and ICI paints. She started her career with a sound understanding of business, where she went route-riding with Pepsico and was part of the team that launched Pepsi 200 ml at Rs 5. She was the first lady HR Manager stationed at a factory in Upcountry UP, and there the seeds to her diversity practice were born.

If 2020 was a year about survival, then 2021 would be a year about fighting back. Nothing about the year 2021 will be similar to earlier years. Whether we like it or not, things will not go back to the way they were Pre-Covid. Some changes will be permanent, and we are yet to see some evolution to take place. Businesses will need to try out newer business models to meet the needs of an evolving consumer. New products and services, new channels of distribution, communication, new sales channels, process innovations, new ways of working, restructuring, innovative employment contracts, automation, the list is endless. In all this, it will become imperative to unleash the power of the most important asset- people, possibly the only asset which appreciates over time. And to do that, organizations will need to rely on the following four pillars.

Purpose – There is nothing more powerful in this world than working towards a purpose that one believes in. Organizations that can rally their entire workforce, from the senior-most to the junior-most, from permanent to temporary to gig workers to trainees, towards a common purpose will have a workforce that will be willing to move mountains to achieve their goals. Integrating the purpose in their vision, mission, and goals for 2021, reinforcing the purpose through internal policies, practices, communication, and interventions will keep employees grounded in the purpose.

Role of Strategic HR Business Partner– If the role of the HR function during the pandemic was critical to helping manage with business continuity, it would be indispensable now. Working side by side with business, the HR function will strategically, structurally and systemically help build sustainable organizational capability while balancing employee experience, well-being, organizational brand amongst relevant talent pool. The HR function will play a key role in driving high-performance inclusive cultures that will need the hour.

Managerial and Leadership competencies– Leaders and Managers will be uniquely placed where on one side, they will be accountable for business results and on the other side for the well-being and performance of their teams, whether working in an office, in hybrid models or working remotely. They will need to be able to build psychological safety in their teams while driving accountability for results, give constructive feedback with empathy, induct employees remotely, nurture high-performance remote teams, manage gig workers, and so on.

Emotionally resilient workforce– Vaccine might be here, and Covid might be abating, but the war is far from over. 2021 will be a challenging year where it will not be incremental growth that businesses will be gunning for. Irrespective of sector or life stage, every business will be looking at recovering lost ground and will be having ambitious targets. Consumer sentiment might be unpredictable. With challenging targets will come work pressure, and building an emotionally resilient workforce will help organizations build a winning team.