Being an employee-oriented company, we have been focusing highly on training and development

Starting as a store-and-forward email service over a dial-up link in 1995, WorldLink Communications Limited is now the largest internet service provider (ISP) in Nepal. With over 500,000 internet subscribers and over 10,000 enterprise circuits across 68 districts of the country, the company has been providing a wide range of internet and network services to general consumers and enterprises/organizations. For a company like WorldLink which has achieved big success in business over the last two and half decades, people management lies at the core of everything it does. Suraj Shrestha is the Head of Human Resources of the company since May 2021. In a conversation with the HRM, he talked about the importance of people management for WorldLink, the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic and other topics in managing people. Excerpts: 

How has people management played a role in the success of WorldLink Communications?
It sounds almost cliché, but people management does play a key role in the success of a company, we can never stress this enough. I feel the ability to find and place the right people in leadership positions is the mantra behind the success of WorldLink.

What changes have there been in people management in WorldLink over these years? 
At WorldLink, there have been several changes in people management over the years. One of the most significant changes has been the shift from a traditional top-down management style to a more participative, team-based approach. A notable change is an operation from the regional level and our head office to undergo lean management. This change has been driven by the need to improve productivity and competitiveness, and to better meet the needs of employees. We have been trying to change our organizational behavior which is needed to sustain in today’s competitive market and to create a healthy and happier work environment.

What are the key focuses of WorldLink in people management to increase employee productivity?
We have been practicing capacity and capability building, matching people and jobs, job (and business) process reengineering, among other things. But largely productivity can be achieved if you have the correct leadership and alignment with the purpose/vision.

What challenges were there for your company in managing people after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic? 
As our industry is listed under essential services, we had to keep the business up and always running regardless of any hindrance. This does pose several challenges for our company in managing people. One challenge has been ensuring that our employees have access to the correct information about the pandemic and how to protect themselves and the resources they need to stay healthy and safe.

Another challenge has been managing employee absences and ensuring that critical work tasks are still completed. This was an ever-changing, global issue that we as an employer and employees had to work together to confront and overcome. We saw the worst scenario causing many lives with mental and physical trauma. Each day we had almost 200 staff working in the field and looking back we would like to salute their hard work in those tough times.

How did WorldLink respond to these challenges?
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”, and so was with us. Due to the lockdown, people were confined in their homes and getting updated with news, and in touch with their friends and family globally so there was high demand for internet services. Challenges create opportunities, and this had been a favorable situation as those demands were fulfilled with all the safety measures.

We had to ensure that our workforce is safe and yet run our operations on daily basis with isolation teams. This however incurred more cost to us but keeping in mind our clients and to keep the service running against all odds it seems very nominal. To overcome the Covid-19 challenges we had to form a Covid task force. The task force was responsible for creating a Covid plan and ensuring that the company follows all Covid-19 regulations, coordinating and communicating with employees, customers, and other stakeholders. We were forced to stay home for safety and experience this new “Work from Home” like every other company. Back then we had almost a workforce of 3,500 people and to manage that offline and online was a challenge to which we excelled by creating a work-from-home policy and by having frequent video calls.

While other similar organizations were laying off employees and/or pay cuts, we feel proud that we made no retrenchment and provided timely pay to all employees. The safety of our staff being our primary concern, we have had circular notices every other day to keep our workforce fully prepared. We focused more on digitalization, the development of cross-functional skills, in-house training, and the personal development of the workforce during this period.

How is the availability of the workforce in internet and digital TV services in Nepal? How is your company fulfilling its workforce needs?
Generally, it is difficult to find “qualified” people, as is the case elsewhere in Nepal. It has not been easy, but we have embarked (largely) on a “make” strategy for fulfilling our requirements. The company has set up three training centers (with plans for more), and we make our own workforce.

What role do training and development play in people management at WorldLink? 
Being an employee-oriented company, we have been focusing highly on training and development, and each year we spend a huge budget on the same. Also, as I mentioned earlier, we have our own training centers, three at present with more coming soon. Training and development are important aspects of people management in our company. We offer a variety of development programs to help our employees grow and improve their skills. We believe this will help employees stay updated in their current field, improve their job performance, and contribute to the success of our company. Not only this, but it also helps employees feel valued and appreciated, which can lead to higher morale and a more productive workforce.

We provide our employees with the tools and resources they need to be successful, and we continue to invest in their development so that they can grow and progress in their careers even outside of and beyond WorldLink. Personally, I think we should provide learning opportunities to all, even though people leave they can make a positive impact wherever they go if they are skilled and in turn, this reflects on the company standard level as well.

How does WorldLink ensure that its employees are happy and satisfied?
One of the measures of the HR department and all employees with supervisory responsibilities is that of employee happiness and as such we are in constant “pursuit of happiness”.

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