Today’s businesses are experiencing an era of incredible disruption with volatile markets and dynamic technology driving change in practically every process of the organization. To keep pace with the changing working environment, HR leaders are steadily working to ensure the sustainability and success of the organisation through one of its most fundamental elements – its employees.
Anil Gaur is Group Chief People Officer of Uniparts Group. Throughout his career, he has worked in business-driven fast-paced and progressive organizations aimed at profitability through sustainable growth.
He speaks to us about how employee experience impacts business sustainability, the steps his company has taken to improve employee experience during the pandemic and the agile processes needed by organisations to survive in an era of disruption.
How does Employee Experience impact business sustainability, and what role does HR play in this process?
When I look back at the year 2020, I think it was a year like no other, at least in the past 4-5 decades. The pandemic has created almost unspeakable human and economic destruction that has destabilized the lives of people across the globe and impacted almost every aspect of the way we live and work. The world has seen a crisis of unprecedented nature and effects.
There is no doubt that this crisis is going to bring irreversible changes in the ways we think and work. Now, I think there is a growing awareness about the pandemic than the beginning and it makes me feel good to see how smoothly people have been able to roll out work and other flexibility measures to all the activities they do. In this context total employee experience in any organisation will play a critical role and I call it a “WOW” employee experience by creating touch-points from the hiring to retiring journey of an employee.
The employee experience has a direct correlation with any of the business metrics because a great experience always turns into a better understanding of the role, productivity/performance, on-time delivery and happy customer experience and hence, a better effect on profitability. I think the “WOW” employee experience not only brings positivity to the organisation, but it also helps people to take responsibility coupled with accountability and ownership to achieve milestones. It also brings an environment of collaboration where people enjoy working in teams; they learn the art of co-existence and support each other to achieve team results.
What are the kinds of agile HR policies/processes needed in organizations today to be able to survive in an era of disruption?
I think it is time for us to understand that during this COVID situation, everyone is going through challenging times; anxiety, stress as people are managing home and office with remote working becomes imperative. It has become workplace integration instead of work-life balance; long working hours, concentrating on work while children playing around, etc. It means that the overall situation has become very demanding. In such a situation, HR professionals must consider the following processes or policies:
- Hybrid work model and policy on resource allocation for people to work from remote
- Flexibility to work at their convenience for remote workers.
- Follow less and focus more on critical business objectives.
- Encourage collaboration and be supportive of each other.
- Focus on the outcome rather than productivity or working hours.
- Communicate, appreciate, engage and support.
- Trust employees.
- Hybrid compensation model i.e. Salary + WFM as a package.
- Be mindful of people’s fragile mental state and bring in policy on mental and physical wellbeing.
I think HR professionals and business leaders should shift their mindsets and resources to enabling new working realities and accordingly they must review and create policies and processes suiting their business and people needs, where maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce must be a top priority.
What are some of the ways in which your organization has worked towards enhancing employee experience in the post-pandemic workplace?
Today, we refer to time in terms of pre-COVID, during-COVID and post-COVID times. The pre-COVID times promoted open communication, frequent travels, in-person interactions and deadlines. The during-COVID times disrupted the whole process with this global outbreak when people got confined to their homes. These uncertain times have made employees terrified of the loss of their jobs, thus may feel disengaged and lack motivation. Developing a more people-centric, accommodative, reliable, and motivating work environment for people is essential.
Almost all companies have worked hard at keeping employees motivated during the lockdowns, but the same is equally important in these post-COVID times as the working conditions change significantly. Employee experience or the experience that you offer to your employees will determine their commitment, level of self-motivation and chances of success in the unlock phase.
At Uniparts we have focused on communication, information sharing, assigning tasks and clear goals. We also laid a high focus on employee and family wellbeing and a lot of initiatives started in that direction.
Also, we established an Alumni Club to engage with people who have left us in the past. We have also had family connections, virtual events, support to families when they need it most, beyond boundaries of HR policies etc. We also looked at remote working/WFH, digital learning and humanizing with the employees.
All efforts were made at Uniparts to engage with the people to operate in a team culture and create a sense of inclusiveness. In the post-COVID-19 phase, some of our employees continued working remotely while some have come to the offices, so we addressed any inequalities that may have arisen in our treatment of in-house and remote working to promote an enhanced employee experience.
Tell us more about the correlation between employee experience, engagement and business sustainability and how organizations are working towards strengthening these areas?
Employee experience is an important aspect that HR functions cannot overlook in any given situation. I think it is being considered as the future of work and even the Indian organisations already have agreed on that.
In my view, employee experience enables any business to get the best outputs at work. Apart from this, I believe that a happy and engaged employee experience has a very big impact on employer branding and its reputation in the market and yes, of course, also build upon employees’ loyalty. Employee perceptions and experiences will affect every other aspect of a company’s processes. Happy employees who perceive their experience as good are more engaged and complete tasks more effectively and efficiently.
I think employee experience directly affects other specific aspects of the workplace. For example, employees who have positive experiences are more likely to commit to and stay at an organisation than employees who have negative experiences. They are also more likely to promote the company as a great place to work, leading to more referrals for open positions and increased fill rates since most job seekers are easily swayed by employee perceptions of the work experience and company culture.
This is one reason why at Uniparts, we have started reviewing various web pages i.e. Glassdoor to check on our popularity count. Good reviews always help us to attract fresh talent. I also believe that employee experience affects engagement, as higher engagement levels improve company culture and increase productivity, ultimately creating a positive impact on the company’s revenue and profits.
What do you think an agile workplace of the future would look like?
Agile workplaces mean multiple things to me. One view is that employees may not have a specific desk assigned to them or a meeting room etc. The team may be seated in designated clusters of workstations. People may be encouraged to choose whatever setting best suits them to perform effectively or that may help to deliver better at any given time. That means some may prefer soft seating areas for informal meetings, collaborative discussions, or just for taking breaks, whereas some may prefer quiet spaces for private discussions or may prefer smaller or standing workstations etc.
I think now the focus will be more on deliverables wherein a minimal common conducive work environment will be provided by the company and no one will have a sense of ownership of any specific area. Sales or BD teams can also work from a cafe and on the other hand, will save a huge capital on creating infrastructure.
As a business, my focus would be more on delivery, performance, and ultimate business results rather than policing people to check their attendance and physical presence. This will also help me to reduce the supervision cost and many other overheads.