From an unwillingness to work, low morale due to salary cut, fear of catching the virus to sales girls going on maternity leave and having to pay salaries despite having no income, jewellery store owners have had to face many challenges in dealing with their staff during this time. They have openly discussed their difficulties when it comes to handling their staff and offered solutions as well. By Vijetha Rangabashyam
There is no one approach to handling staff. Every company is built differently. Some organisations are large and have the wherewithal to deal with the crisis at hand without having to cut pays or lay employees off. However, some organisations have to be more practical and safe in their approach. Employers have to deal with staff sensitively in addition to ensuring that they remain driven to perform well.
#Challenge 1 : Low morale because of salary cuts
Solution: Transparency, tell it like it is
Truth always triumphs. Your staff is the backbone of your organisation. They need to understand the gravity of the situation. Be honest about what is going on with your business. Abhishek Chanda of Hyderabad-based Kalasha Fine Jewels decided to go in for a pay cut for his employees during lockdown. “We had staff meetings and made everyone understand the situation, we have shared data about the volumes of sales, so everyone understands the situation the company is facing.” The company has informed everyone that they have been able to achieve only 25 per cent of sales as compared to the same period last year. “So everyone understands the whole situation clearly. Everyone has to understand that this is a difficult situation.” Anxiety about getting the virus is predominant in these times and so, every employee at Kalasha has undergone Covid 19 testing. “We have conducted Covid 19 testing for the entire staff. Everyone tested negative, which is a good thing. We are advising staff not to step out of the store, earlier they used to go out during lunch time. Now we strictly do not allow them to step out of the store. We have allocated space for them to have their lunch while observing social distancing norms.”
We had staff meetings and made everyone understand the situation, we have shared data about the volumes of sales, so everyone understands the situation the company is facing Abhishek Chanda, Kalasha Fine Jewels, Hyderabad
#Challenge 2: Boredom & depression amidst staff
Solution: Online training & motivational speaking
For Amritsar-based Durga Das Seth Jewellers, staff is the backbone. They have been with the organisation for several decades. “We haven’t deducted any salary during the lockdown, so their financial problems have been taken care of. We haven’t cut down the team even by a single person. In fact we hired one or two new people. We believe that if our people have worked for us for 20-30 years, we will not lay them off because of 3-4 months of sales decline. I believe during difficult times we should mutually support each other,” adds Pankaj Seth.
We haven’t deducted any salary during the lockdown, so their financial problems have been taken care of. We haven’t cut down the team even by a single person Pankaj Seth, Durga Das Seth Jewellers, Amritsar
#Challenge 3 : Fear of Coronavirus
Solution: Educating staff
Organisations across industries are facing the problem of alleviating the fear of coronavirus amidst their staff. It is a very valid fear and hence it is the duty of the employer to help make them feel confident and comfortable. Ramesh Davanam of Bangalorebased Davanam Jewellers has ensured that not a single person in the team has been laid off in addition to making sure that his staff ’s safety is of utmost importance. “We have all the precautionary measures, temperature guns, Oxymeters, sanitisers, masks, gloves, etc.”
We have started working on their psychological aspect as well, in order to eliminate the fear of the Coronavirus Ramesh Davanam, Davanam Jewellers, Bangalore
#Challenge 4 : Internal Politics
Solution: Educating staff Solution: Share the company’s vision and growth plan
No company is free of politics. Especially where incentives and bonuses are part of the company’s policies, jealousy andfriction amidst staff are natural outcomes. ForRishi Verma of Ambala-based Fateh Chand Bansi Lal Jewellers, fighting his attrition rate has been an issue. “High attrition levels are a result of in the organization. All big organisations usually face such problems. We are trying to counsel each one individually and we have offered very good incentives to all staff members.”
The entire growth plan has to be shared with all the staff members Rishi Verma, Fateh Chand Bansi Lal Jewellers, Ambala
#Challenge 5 : Losing experienced sales staff
Solution: Extensive training for newer sales staff
Since senior sales staff come with years of experience and also belong to a higher age group, many companies have suggested that they stay home. However, this comes with its own set of problems as the newer crop of sales staff don’t have the same experience and knowledge. “We are working only with 50 per cent staff and that itself is a big problem. We do not have enough staff. We don’t have experienced people working. Because of their age they aren’t working in this scenario,” says Mookanpillai of Trichy based Mangal & Mangal Thangamaligai.
We are working only with 50 per cent staff and that itself is a big problem. We do not have enough staff. We don’t have experienced people working Mookanpillai, Mangal & Mangal Thangamaligai, Trich
#Challenge 6 : Paying salaries with no income
Solution: Thinking of coronavirus as a temporary glitch and staying positive
Even though many jewellers have gone without any income in the last 4 months, they have still embraced a more humanitarian approach and paid their staff full salary without any pay cut. “We are paying complete salary since the last four months – all these are experienced staff, than have been working with me for more then the last five years or so. The biggest problem I am facing is the burden of the salary which we are paying everyone since lockdown. But we cannot let them go as well, we have to take care of their needs, we understand this,” says Sacheen Vastani of Nagpur based Dass Jewellers
The biggest problem I am facing is the burden of the salary which we are paying everyone since the lockdown. But we cannot let them go as well, we have to take care of their needs, we understand this Sacheen Vastani, Dass Jewellers, Nagpur
#Challenge 7 : Constant reassurance about job security
Solution: Communicating to the staff on a daily basis
In the current scenario, apart from getting over the fear of Covid, people are also worried about losing their jobs and this is prevalent in the jewellery industry as well. Many companies have approached this problem by implementing a pay cut, however, retaining all staff. “We have ensured that we have retained all our staff. If they have any fear, we keep communicating with them on a daily basis that their jobs are safe,” says Samarth Prakash of Meerut-based Alankar Jewelarts.
We have ensured that we have retained all our staff. If they have any fear, we keep communicating with them on a daily basis that their jobs are safe Samarth Prakash, Alankar Jewelarts, Meerut
Challenge 8 : Number of Covid cases on the rise
Solution: Group medical insurance for staff and their families
Cases in Coimbatore, which was initially a Green Zone, are on the rise. “Our showroom is still open but on Sundays only 50 per cent staff is working. “We have taken medical insurance cover worth Rs 3 lakhs for all our staff and their family,” adds Senthil Kumar of Sumangali Jewellers.
We have taken medical insurance cover worth Rs 3 lakhs for all our staff
and their family Senthil Kumar, Sumangali Jewellers, Coimbatore
#Challenge 9 : Staff in containment zone, unable to come to work
Solution: Give existing staff additional responsibilities
In big metros, where population is dense, some staff are not in a position to come to work as they live in containment zones. For Delhi-based Bholasons Jewellers, making do with existing staff and training them to take on additional roles has been the only solution at hand. “Since footfall is anyway less, we are ensuring that the remaining staff is managing the work well,” adds Subhash Bhola.
We keep talking to them, we keep sharing positive thoughts with them. We urge them to talk to their team leaders as well Subhash Bhola, Bholasons Jewellers, Delhi
#Challenge 10 : Choosing who to retain and who to let go
Solution: Temporary sabbatical
Many jewellers also embraced a more practical and safe approach. For Sumeet Anand of Indore-based Punjabi Saraf it was a question of retaining staff who are more conscious about hygiene and other aspects. “We have asked some staff members to quit for a while -- say for about six months to a year and retained those we really needed. Fortunately, footfall is good. So we are now rethinking this move. During total lockdown, we had to go in for pay cuts up to say 10 per cent to 20 per cent. Our staff retention rate is very good. Our staff supported the pay cut totally.”
Some of our staff, who were less educated and careless in terms of hygiene, are the people we asked to go on leave Sumeet Anand, Punjabi Saraf, Indore
#Challenge 11 : High levels of stress amidst staff
Solution: Removing target based goals
Every jewellery store has set targets for their sales staff. However, given the current scenario, with low footfalls and additional burden of having to take care of one’s health and their families’ UP based Aisshpra Gems and Jewels has not given its sales staff any targets this year. This way, the staff is in a position to work under less pressure. “Some staff members were concerned – they were mostly under performers, we have assured them that if they perform well, we won’t ask them to leave. We just want them to keep our customers happy and satisfied,” says Vaibhav Saraf.
Some staff members were concerned – they were mostly under performers, we have assured them that if they perform well, we won’t ask them to leave Vaibhav Saraf, Aisshpra Gems and Jewels, UP
#Challenge 12 : Maintaining the perception of the brand
Solution: Sticking with the staff
Chandigarh faced a milder lockdown, as compared to the rest of India. Stores were open since May 13. In the last few months, public perception of companies has played a very important role. Companies that have stuck with their employees through these difficult times have enhanced its reputation. “We haven’t gone in for any pay cuts or laid off any of our staff. At the end of the day our workforce is our strength. They have been with us for many years. Some bad months can occur anytime for any business. We need to take care of them during these hard times. Once we do that we retain their confidence,” says Vikram Talwar of Talwarsons.
We haven’t gone in for any pay cuts or laid off any of our staff. At the end of the day our workforce is our strength. They have been with us for many years Vikram Talwar, Talwarsons, Chandigarh
#Challenge 13 : Smart sales girls going on maternity leave
Solution: Having backup sales staff in place
Running a jewellery business in smaller towns comes with lesser number of challenges. The staff lives closer to the store, their expenses are lesser and aspiration levels are lesser too. However, there are downsides like staff not being highly qualified. “We had very smart sales girls working for us. Many of them were newly married and during lockdown some of them got pregnant. It is a pattern we have been witnessing. The only solution in sight has been to keep a backup off sales staff,” says Viraj Sheth of Nagpur-based Batukbhai Sons Jewellers.
We don’t have hierarchy when it comes to sharing thoughts and problems. We treat all staff equally Viraj Sheth, Batukbhai Sons Jewellers, Nagpur