The concept of phygital [physical+digital] is helping to improvise the employee’s journey in the digital workspace. The past year (2020) has brought this concept to the organizations’ inward-looking strategies, thus creating a new phygital workplace for the employees to better enable them to do their best.
Mr. Mukund Nair, Director – HR, Nagarro speaks on the phygital work environment and why employees should adopt the phygital workspace.
Mukund leads the company-wide People Enablement initiative at Nagarro in India. While learning and development is his forte, people analytics and HR processes are currently focused on. As the People Enablement Lead, Mukund works closely with key stakeholders to spread Nagarro’s culture and conceptualize new offerings or align existing policies to solve various people practice-related needs. Prior to Nagarro he has worked with leading organizations like HCL Technologies and Sapient.
A firm believer that meritocracy trumps everything; he loves the non-hierarchical culture of Nagarro. He enjoys solving challenging problems which lie at the intersection of people, operations, and technology.
- How is the phygital work environment redefining organizations today and what are the key areas in which organizations can begin their ‘phygital revolution’?
A few decades later, when we reflect on this period, I feel that we will look at 2020 as the start of the era of “Experience revolution” or at least at the minimum, “Employee experience revolution.” This might sound hyperbole, but I believe the rapid pace at which behaviors and mindsets are being altered makes it unlikely that its impact will not be cataclysmic.
In this light, organizations have to closely examine if the work someone needs to do needs them to come to the office or not. It has also changed the concept of the talent pool, which used to be severely constrained by location. Most importantly, it forces organizations to finally move beyond the antiquated notion of equating impact and productivity to the number of hours spent in the office.
The deep connections that used to form through physical proximity now have to be built through digital means. The idea of engagement and collaboration, which meant let’s get everyone together in a room and spend time together, is no longer valid.
Keeping the above realities in mind, it’s important for organizations to:
- Not just create a policy for phygital working but instead make sure every policy supports phygital working
- Carefully evaluate where you can provide the flexibility and where you cannot. This exercise needs to be carried out based on what is possible in the industry and not necessarily what is currently possible. This distinction is essential because if you don’t do it, your employees will be highly likely to leave for organizations that will.
- Identify how to create deep personalization, alignment to culture, and constant engagement across the different mediums to provide a great employee experience.
- Enable tools, processes, and mindset to ensure that most of the experiences you would like to create can be digitally crafted.
- What do you think are some of the essential skills needed by future employees to adapt to a phygital workplace?
This is a challenging but also exciting time to come into the workforce. 4 key traits that can have a significant impact are:
- Being self-driven – The reason you work should not be because your boss or your team is sitting along with you, but because you have a high degree of ownership.
- “Learnagility” – Your ability to continuously learn new skills and be comfortable with ever-changing digital collaboration tools will help you adapt to the ever-changing environment.
- Effective communication – Just doing the work is not enough. You need to be able to communicate about it too effectively
- Ability to build and foster networks – Workplace hierarchies are collapsing, and going to office and events will not be the same. Your ability to proactively form networks and sustain them using all mediums will be critical to your long-term growth in such an environment.
- What are some of the main challenges companies face in trying to implement a phygital working model?
I am responding to this with the lens of what needs to be done for the future and am therefore not factoring in the additional challenges of what one hopes to be temporary Covid induced complexities. The main challenges are:
- Model determination – The first and primary challenge is to decide on the model in which phygital would work. Figuring out what you would like to set up now and how you would want to be in the future is going to be a key strategic decision.
- Creating serendipity – Watercooler conversations and walking over to a person’s desk for conversations are not easy to replicate in a digital format. This becomes even more challenging in a mixed-mode where some are in office and some remote,
- Real-time asset support – As colleagues work from home or anywhere else, they will encounter issues with their hardware assets. Issues that can’t be fixed remotely. Organizations will have to have mechanisms to serve their needs ASAP or build asset redundancy or hope for some other technological innovation that reduces the need for expensive hardware to be required at home. The space seems ripe for a grocery delivery-like experience for office assets.
- Distributed working – It is not just a phygital model that needs to be set up, but in all probability, a distributed working model. Otherwise, you expect all people to be in the same location and all willing to come together on the same days to come into offices for collaboration or any other use case.
- Some companies are still adamant about continuing with the in-office work model, what advice would you give them bearing in mind the shift we are witnessing towards phygital or hybrid workspaces?
Taking a figurative example from the movie franchise – The Matrix: As Mr. Anderson told Neo – It is the sound of inevitability! An employee has a choice in a phygital model of not having to spend hours on a commute and not miss out on important personal events that require just an hour or two in a working day.
- Now that they have demonstrated that phygital can work, why would they not want to make this benefit a right? Can you afford to lose talent because a competitor is providing this flexibility?
I would recommend every organization to examine the reason why they are not offering flexibility closely. Is it because it is not possible for this particular role in your industry, or is it because you don’t see It as being successful in your company? If it’s the latter, then it is the org you might need to change to support this, rather than expecting this mindset shift to go away. Also, some flexibility is better than no flexibility, so maybe you want to take some baby steps and go there.
Suppose employees are a key aspect of your competitive strategy. In that case, your ability to increase your pool of talent, provide them a better experience by giving them flexibility, and finally deliver better with lean teams using self-driven people might be necessary for your survival. If you can’t significantly differentiate on monetary benefits, then flexibility might be the next most powerful weapon you might have available. And I would say this aside – Neo, I hope you are listening.
- How has your organization supported employees towards the transition into a phygital workforce and what are the various training and development programs you have in place to facilitate this?
At Nagarro, even before the pandemic, we were proponents of hybrid working. On any day in 2019, 25% of our workforce was already working remotely and we had further upped the ante by encouraging distributed working within projects. Our in-house distributed working certification for projects ensured the right tools and tech were in place before they embraced this setup. But even more important than tools was the gradual acceptance that WFH and distributed working are feasible.
Thanks to the pandemic, this gradual acceptance has now changed to a full-blown mindset shift. We have been very explicit in the internal and external communication that we are looking to enable flexibility for each of our colleagues to choose the working format that works for them. We are happy to provide the asset support, be it laptops, monitors, dongles, or other essential hardware that they need to work comfortably.
We also have invested a lot of thought in crafting digital engagements and used our internal social media platform extensively to increase our engagement levels and our Glassdoor scores are the highest they have ever been.
We are a company born in the digital age, and with a young intelligent population that is very comfortable with technology, we don’t feel the need to invest too much in training tools but believe more focus on providing the right infrastructure, environment and freedom are what will help us continue to live our mission statement of – “To make e distance irrelevant between intelligent people”.