HR leaders play an integral role in shaping an organisation’s culture – one that is engaging, inclusive and adaptive, and which will contribute to business sustainability, success and survival.
Sameer Mathur, Global HR Lead, GDS, AECOM, is known for seamlessly and successfully establishing and transforming businesses, setting up new territories and greenfield countries through well thought out and power packed HR strategies and valuable business partnerships.
He discusses the impact of employee experience on business success, how companies can survive and sustain in an era of disruption and what agile workplaces of the future will look like.
How does Employee Experience impact business sustainability, and what role does HR play in this process?
The term employee experience justifiably deserves the attention it has received in recent years. There is a direct correlation between the employee experience and business sustainability, perhaps more evident due to the global pandemic. The Financial Impact of a Positive Employee Experience study recently published by IBM and Globoforce found that top-performing organizations in terms of employee experience also report three times the return on assets. As organizations reiterate their ESG commitments and strive to deliver on the same, a positive employee experience must be a key part of these strategies.
As human resource professionals, it is our responsibility to create joint ownership of the employee experience with business leaders. Our focus needs to shift from process thinking to experience thinking. This necessitates adopting design thinking in everything we do. Employee solutions need to be crafted as thoughtfully as customer solutions. A positive employee experience is a long-term commitment to employees and is not specific to sporadic events.
What are the kinds of agile HR policies/processes needed in organizations today to be able to survive in an era of disruption?
During the pandemic, organizations began leveraging technology and finding better ways of collaborating and communicating. The disruption of several industries during COVID-19 has created a sudden and urgent need to pivot from our traditional ways of working. In a short time, adaptability, agility, and resilience gained prominence for ensuring seamless business continuity and minimizing the impact of adversities.
HR agility will play a significant role in making large changes with minimal disruption and maximum success. Organizations need to focus on design solutions available, making effective use of multi-functional, multi-geographical teams to meet employee needs. Co-creating employee solutions through multi-functional teams, rapid prototyping, piloting, and moving at a faster pace will be the key to progress in this area.
The focus needs to be redirected towards creating enhanced speed and flexibility in ways of working that eventually results in decreased bureaucracy, more autonomy, quicker decision making, empower teams and a higher degree of transparency and trust.
When wanting to transform its talent process, a truly agile HR team may design two versions, test it on pilot groups, analyze the results, and quickly adopt the same for implementation across the organization. Embracing principles such as prioritizing face-to-face communication, self-organizing teams, simplifying tasks, and empowering individuals are necessary to effectively transform current HR processes into agile processes.
In organizations such as ours, agility is exemplified by the network of project teams dispersed geographically across the globe, collaboratively in different time zones using truly digital platforms to deliver for our clients.
What are some of the ways in which your organization has worked towards enhancing employee experience in the post-pandemic workplace?
At AECOM, employee experience is the cornerstone of all our decisions and initiatives. Our focus is on creating a culture where every employee feels welcomed and empowered to realize their full potential. The health and wellbeing of our employees and having a secured workplace has been of utmost importance for us; hence we are supporting employees financially to bear COVID-related expenses and vaccination costs.
Additionally, we formulated an Emergency Response Team to support employees and family members inflicted during the second wave. We also adopted AECOM’s Freedom to Grow initiative, offering absolute flexibility to our employees to choose how, where, and when to work. Rather than transition back to the traditional workplace, we want to support employees by facilitating a hybrid work model.
Recognizing the need for Learning and Development, we encourage our people to leverage digital tools such as AECOM University, which offers courses on health and well-being, adapting to remote work, and professional development. We have also transformed our onboarding process through the adoption of digital platforms, all with an eye on enhancing our employee experience.
Tell us more about the correlation between employee experience, engagement, and business sustainability and how organizations can work towards strengthening these areas?
The new business models aim to create shared value for all stakeholders including employees, customers, communities, and shareholders. Positive employee experience and business sustainability are intertwined. A positive employee experience leads to enhanced employee performance, engagement, and commitment, which leads to greater business sustainability.
The Gallup study, Employee Engagement: Maximizing Employee Potential, outlining the difference between engaged and disengaged employees found organizations in the top quartile to be outperforming others significantly on profitability, productivity and turnover, sales, and absenteeism.
In my 20+ years of working with different sectors and organizations, I have found that taking the five simple steps below can greatly improve both the employee experience and business sustainability:
- Create a shared sustainable vision of the future.
- Focus on customizing employee solutions depending on individual needs.
- Envision employee experience as a journey and as a holistic concept.
- Propagate open communication, creating opportunities for feedback and connecting with employees.
- Focus on continuous improvement.
What do you think an agile workplace of the future would look like?
To me, an ideal agile workplace of the future is free from the shackles of brick and mortar boundaries. It breeds transparency, communication, and collaboration. We expect to see rapid adoption of agile techniques such as Daily Standups, Retrospectives, and Product Road-mapping. Our offices will be as futuristic as our people will now have the freedom to choose their place and style of work and enable business interactions with more transparency.
To me, an ideal agile workplace is anywhere or an opportunity to collaborate, think and act globally, and build a culture where the focus is on delivering a better world every day.