There has been a lot of discussion around the impact of the pandemic on the workplace and the workforce and it is a fact that it has changed things forever. While the hybrid work model is being vouched for as the way forward for organizations, it is now up to organizations to create an ecosystem and environment that is conducive to these new ways of working. And amid all the other opportunities and challenges, one thing that remains paramount is the fact that culture will play a key role in determining the success or failure of an organization in these times. It is all about keeping the culture alive no matter where your people are working from.
In this exclusive interview, Rohit Hasteer, Group CHRO, Housing.com, Makaan.com and Proptiger.com shares his thoughts on why it is absolutely critical to ensure that people are wired to the company culture even in a hybrid set up; how organizations can leverage technology to preserve culture in a hybrid workplace; and what role does a leader play in creating and retaining culture in a hybrid work environment.
Rohit is responsible for building and sustaining a vibrant company culture and a talent force that is aligned and drives the organizational vision. He has rich experience in finding and building talent, setting up robust policies & processes, honing talent through learning & development, and talent management. Rohit has almost two decades of experience working with start-ups and fast paced organizations across industries. Prior to this role, Rohit was Director, People Management & Human Resources – Indian Subcontinent, UTi Worldwide Inc. He has also been in senior level positions at MakeMyTrip.com, Aviva India Life Insurance, and Citifinancial Consumer Finance successfully delivering results for the Human Resource function.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
How critical is retaining company culture when people are working remotely?
Absolutely and there are no two ways about it. An organization’s culture is a culmination of its beliefs, practices & values that eventually help people stay connected to the overall vision and mission of the organization. Hence, it’s important to be mindful of this when embarking on a journey where the teams are distributed to avoid any impact on the culture that people in the organization have created together. Culture is like the soul which guides actions & interactions at the workplace and a great work culture serves as a source of competitive advantage for organizations as it differentiates good organizations from the great. It is especially crucial to retain the essence of the same in a hybrid set up so that people stay attached to the overall mission of the organization and continue their best efforts to stay productive and find happiness & fulfillment in their jobs.
Why do you think ‘preserving culture’ is one of the challenges in a hybrid workplace?
One of the major reasons I see is that in a hybrid workplace, it is difficult for people to observe & emulate behaviors that define the culture of an organization and hence, it takes special and extra efforts for leaders to demonstrate and appreciate those behaviors. Aligning people to an organization’s culture may not happen organically in a hybrid workplace and camaraderie & trust between teams may not be the same as in a physical office setup because unlike the office environment, where culture can easily be experienced by people in day-to-day small & big things, the feeling of belongingness takes time to sync in virtually. Moreover, ensuring a uniform experience for geographically distributed teams who communicate and interact through digital platforms is not easy.
What are some of the ways in which organizations can ensure that people are wired to the company culture even in a hybrid set up?
- Share your values: A big part of an organization’s culture is its values and organizations should make it visible by calling it out. One needs to reiterate and reinforce them through open & transparent communication. It’s always a good idea to tell people how values drive decisions in the company. Rewarding and celebrating people who display values is another way of ensuring that people are wired to the culture.
- Enhance connect: Organizations should chalk out an engagement plan which aims at enhancing collaboration and connect among people in a hybrid set up through virtual games, activities, celebrations, etc. so that people don’t miss out on small things like team lunches, birthday celebrations, etc. which make a group of individuals feel like a team.
How should organizations ensure camaraderie & collaboration among a diversified workforce?
- Organizations should encourage cross functional assignments that give a platform to people from various teams to work together. This not only enhances collaboration but also helps in skilling people.
- Setting up interactions at frequent intervals by setting up daily stand-ups, recurring meetings, townhalls, etc. with the team are a great way to enhance camaraderie and collaboration as it gives people a chance to interact with each other regularly.
- Thirdly, one should encourage connections between people through engagement initiatives like games, fun activities, celebrations, etc. These not only provide the required breather to people in their daily grind of work but also foster collaboration.
- Last but not the least, organizations should have a robust technology platform in place that enables all of the above seamlessly.
How can organizations leverage technology to preserve culture in a hybrid workplace?
- Communication is the essence when it comes to retaining culture in the new normal. Organizations should leverage the various communication tools in the market that allow them to connect to a geographically diverse team anytime, anywhere.
- Organizations can create social channels to host small group lunches, social hours and other casual spaces that give a feeling of ‘water-cooler’ in the office.
- Developing an intranet channel is another great way of leveraging technology to preserve culture as it allows organizations to share elements of their culture regularly and vividly so that there is reinforcement of what they stand for.
- Investing in tools that constantly gauge engagement levels of people using data or AI and providing ways to keep the collaboration amongst the organization going.
What role does a leader play in creating and retaining culture in a hybrid work environment?
Hybrid or no hybrid, I believe leaders play the most important role in driving culture at the workplace because people experience an organization’s culture through their managers. While HR can design practices, programs, and policies, ensuring that employees experience them is a leader’s responsibility. Even in the hybrid work environment, successful leaders should embrace and embody the organization’s vision and values and communicate and cultivate culture in their teams.
What are the perceived benefits for leaders to invest in safeguarding organization culture?
- People who are connected to the organization’s mission, vision and goals are self-motivated and willing to walk the extra mile for the larger benefit of the organization. Hence, we get a workforce which is more productive and charged and puts in more discretionary effort.
- A great work culture also ensures people are satisfied and engaged at work which directly results in lesser attrition at the workplace.