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Workforce Management RESET - Joy George

Excerpts from the Interview with Joy George, Senior Director & Head-HR, CDK Global


SHRM India in association with Kronos India conducted a joint study in 2020 – "Workforce Management RESET: Strategies & Implications for Changing Times"; with an objective to explore the emerging workforce requirements in the new normal. Further the study also deep dived into how organizations are evolving with their workforce planning strategies and management systems to manage the work, worker and workplaces during times of uncertainty.

Taking the discussions ahead, SHRM interviewed Joy George, Senior Director & Head – HR, CDK Global to take his views on the said subject.

How has the composition of your workforce changed over time, given the present situation? What are your plans going forward?

Being a true IT product company, work from home or remote working option was part of our flexible working environment practice to be availed as and when required.

Therefore, when the need came for us to think of employees working remotely en masse, it was not too difficult for us to implement because tools and systems were already in place and the model was well tested. Most of the leaders were also already aware of how to connect and engage with employees remotely and manage outcomes virtually.  In fact, we were one of those first organizations to move to what we like to call en masse remote working and we started it well before the lockdown was formally announced.

If you just look at the specific expertise of your employees, one could assume that a lot of them would be skilled workers, with a specialization or focused on certain niche tasks. Keeping this in mind, is building flexibility an important concern at this point of time for you, within the workforce?

Skills of our workforce are key differentiators for us and as such we look at the depth of a person in terms of technology, domain or function, rather than the breadth.  When you look at skill-based staffing, your options for hiring are limited. Since we look for highly skilled workforce in our core areas of engineering and product development, we normally do not go for temporary staffing or freelancers in a big way

Such a skill based workforce often looks for flexibility,  they would like to ascertain for themselves, that they have the opportunity to be what they are at the workplace, including ability to work during hours they think, they can be at their best and as an organization, we provide such an environment. Our approach to performance is more outcome focussed than hours and efforts.

As you build new features and introduce the product to newer markets, customers or add specific segments to it, have you experienced any workforce shortage or a skill shortage in recent times?

Generally, there is a scarcity of the type of talent with in-depth understanding of technology, specific domain and product mind-set.  Having said that, we have been immensely successful in attracting talent at CDK as CDK Global is a well-established organization in the Indian market, and people do recognize our organization for the type of opportunities we provide for our people from earning, learning, fun and pride we create in our people.  And few months ago, CDK global India got certified as a Great Place to Work, by the Great Place to Work Institute. In short since we work on the latest and niche technology, we do not find a very large talent pool to dip into and hence the war for talent continues.

Has the pandemic brought about any changes in definition of productivity - how do you define, let's say utilization of your teams?

Our thoughts on productivity is more around the outcome than anything else.   As such the engineering teams do follow a method of measuring outcome at the end of every quarter, internally we call this 'wave'. This requires that at the beginning of the quarter, we define what could be delivered in wave one and what will be delivered in wave two.  At the end of every such wave, we formally measure how many or how much of what was committed was created or delivered.  Comparison of wave outcomes before pandemic and during, do not show any variation.

Product operations teams follow clearly defined metrics and our experience so far has been that there is no drop in productivity. In certain ways, because people saved a lot of commute time and work itself became the most engaging activity during the lockdown there was marginal increase in productivity.

How are you optimizing costs, eliminating leakages while protecting jobs?

Today every organisation is trying to manage their costs smartly and that is the case with CDK too. Nevertheless, not only we did not have to declare any sort of extreme austerity measures at this point of time, rather extended some support to our customers.  When we realized that our customers, specifically the automotive dealers were really struggling to get their businesses going, CDK upfront declared major discounts on our products for many of our customers in North America as a goodwill gesture which was well appreciated.

Secondly, though for all the discretionary spending, we exercise a lot of prudence, we are on course with our, bonus pay-outs, merit increase and promotions.  In fact, we enhanced our health insurance cover for employees and their families, introduced 'COVID 19 special medical cover etc.  Our employees are feeling extremely grateful, happy, connected, and cared for as an outcome of these decisions, even during these difficult times.

Going forward, are there any thoughts on reducing real estate and the office space that is out there - with your product support staff getting more used to remote working?

While we provide all the flexibility to our employees to be remotely connected, we are on office based working mode.  To that effect, we provide end to end support, including pickup & drop and all other facilities and provisions needed to make employees feel safe for office-based working. We do not intend to reduce our real estate, rather encourage our employees to use the office workspace as they deem fit.

As many have expressed already in many forums, as a matter of fact, there is an element of fatigue that is beginning to set in the minds of people who have been remotely connected for more than 5 months.  Fatigue comes in because of multiple things such as, the unscheduled hours of work, virtual meetings, needing to put up with inefficient infrastructure etc.  A lot of homes in India are probably not, equipped to support working from home, and issues compound if both the spouses are working and have to manage children and their online classes simultaneously  I'm very sure, if there is an option for them to come to office, they would prefer that and at CDK we always encourage people to come to the office and use the facilities to make things easy.

Given that you have not differentiated between the remote working and you're still encouraging people to come to office, is it that your policies and processes are going to remain common or combined for all employee groups? Or is there a thought to diversify?

In our case, there is nothing that is going to be changed, our workplace policies provide clear guidelines as to what it means to be remotely connected, what it means to be office based.  Benefits and policies around leave, vacation, shifts, etc. are all same for those on homebased and office based, both are treated and compensated same and at par.

Any other thoughts or comments please?

These are unpreceded times, will need to resort to unconventional measures to keep the workforce, engaged and motivated.  Pressure is mounting on the business leaders to rebuild their business and revenue on one hand and on the other hand employees are looking for psychological safety and security from their employer more than ever.  Only those who can balance the two will come out of this pandemic victorious, according to me.

Click here to access the full study report: Workforce Management RESET: Strategies & Implications for Changing Times I 2020

Click here to access the Future of Work Report I 2019


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