Chief Financial Officer

Annual Report

Empathy in Times of Crisis

Perspectives from the CHRO

Like all companies, HCL has been through a wrenching 18 months. Chief Human Resources Officer Apparao VV, one of the leaders of HCL’s COVID-19 pandemic response, describes the combination of technology and human ingenuity, of empathy and effectiveness, that has driven that response.

Can you recall a personal experience that epitomizes for you HCL’s response to the crisis?

An HCL colleague was hospitalized with COVID-19 in a remote town in north India at a facility unequipped to handle such a critical case. His wife was frantic, and after a few days she reached out to us saying her husband’s condition was deteriorating. Within two hours, we had organized an ambulance and moved him to one of the bigger hospitals in Delhi. Happily, he survived. This is just one incident. But the speed at which we coordinated with the hospital, arranged for an ambulance with a ventilator, and got him admitted reflects the type of care HCL has tried to provide to all its employees during the pandemic.

Were there broader initiatives that reflect this kind empathy?

Our support during the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t only involved HCL employees. There have been numerous initiatives to help the communities where we live and work. One innovative program addressed the severe shortage of hospital beds with oxygen support. We learned that there were a number of hospitals that had the necessary medical staff and building capacity but lacked beds and equipment. We were able to quickly procure these for these hospitals, easing the shortage for both HCL employees and those with no ties to the company.

Both of those examples suggest not only good intentions but also effective execution.

In early January 2020, as the world was only just becoming aware of COVID-19, we formed a crisis management team charged with ensuring employee safety and well-being, minimizing client impact, ensuring business continuity, and providing support to communities. And while in many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic response was led by functionaries from legal, admin, and security, our team included the company’s senior-most leadership. The group met twice weekly, sometimes more often, to proactively manage the evolving situation. This high-level support allowed us to avoid lengthy approvals and to make decisions quickly.

What are some of HCL’s initiatives aimed at individual employee health and well-being?

There are literally dozens of active programs, both big and small. They range from a 24/7 medical helpline staffed with trained nurses and doctors to setting up vaccination centers at in-premises HCL healthcare clinics and off-campus locations for all employees and their families. There’s a Financial Assistance Program for families of employees who have died from COVID-19, which includes not only immediate financial support but also such benefits as five years of school fees for their children. The deployment of in-house technology – for example, a contract tracing app, a health status tracking tool and virtual consultations – has accelerated our response. Under an employee buddy program, employees volunteer to check up on colleagues affected by COVID-19, ensure they are receiving proper care and provide moral support.

The buddies program is about individual rather than corporate caring. What is the source of this organizational and individual empathy?

HCL is a very passionate organization. Caring runs deep in our veins, whether its caring for clients or caring for one another. COVID-19 saw every single one of us affected in one way or the other, be it family, friends or colleagues. With pain comes the need to care, which comes with empathy.