Article: Drive flexibility without diluting collaboration: Nitin Singh

Culture

Drive flexibility without diluting collaboration: Nitin Singh

"Keeping in mind the constantly evolving future of work, we have reinvented our ways of working to answer three fundamental questions for our people – how we work, how we lead and how we learn in the new world," said Nitin Singh, Head of Human Resources, Asia Pacific market, Merck KGaA.
Drive flexibility without diluting collaboration: Nitin Singh

We are witnessing a time of constant change in work culture, be it working from office, home, introducing a hybrid working environment, or implementing different policies for employees. 

On the flip side, these changes have proven to be complex and exhausting for many. While the new work arrangements help companies address the employees' demand for flexibility, it poses significant challenges to established talent practices. How can oragnisations embrace these new ways of working without limiting themselves to a working style and create a shared culture?

In an interview, Nitin Singh, Head of Human Resources, Asia Pacific market, Merck KGaA shares how HR leaders can tackle the ongoing big disruptions and drive a culture built on the foundation of employee experience. 

Organisations are continually looking at integrating new ways of working into their business models to beat the era of great resignation. What are your key talent priorities for 2022? 

Even before pandemic broke out, we at Merck were practising flexible ways of working in many of our markets.

Keeping in mind the constantly evolving future of work, we have reinvented our ways of working to answer three fundamental questions for our people – how we work, how we lead and how we learn in the new world.

Our key talent priorities for 2022 and beyond are built around these dimensions, aimed at both existing workforce and new talent that we onboard to meet our growth objectives. 

The tech talent market is experiencing a great power shift. In this context, how are you reevaluating your employee experience to move in tune with the new normal successfully? 

While the impact of ‘great resignation’ is not directly seen by us in most of the Asian markets, we indeed are experiencing employee churn in specific areas like IT, semi-conductor materials, data science, digital and analytics etc. This is an outcome of a rapid shift (Moore’s Law at 3 times the normal speed) in the technological and digital landscape in the last 3 years.

Our preliminary research and feedback from employees confirm the shift in their preferences and what they value at Merck. To address this, we are relooking at our value proposition and re-evaluating investments in benefits, career advancement frameworks and culture-building interventions aligned to existing and prospective employee expectations. 

The expansion of remote work presents new challenges for managers. How are you preparing your leaders and managers to work efficiently in the new model of work?

We have already rolled out a flex-work policy universally within Merck.

It is designed around a hybrid-work principle that allows employees and managers to discuss and mutually decide on flexible work arrangements that are convenient and bring out the best in working remotely and from offices.

Our endeavour is to provide employees as much flexibility as possible without dilution or loss of collaboration, teamwork and camaraderie that emerges out of working together in offices.

To help leaders and managers deal with this new reality, we have enabled them with information, material, and tools to lead teams in hybrid environment. In doing so, we have also shifted the overall emphasis towards outcomes as against time spent at work.

What are some mega trends shaping your business priorities and how does this impact the role of HR? 

We see many mega trends emerging that either are already impacting or will impact the workforce and corporations in times to come. Let me list down a few.

Firstly, we observe a structural shift taking place in the labour market that potentially will change the employer-employee relationship, as we have understood it over the last few decades. In other words, companies need to prepare for increased fluidity in workforce structure and management.

As an example, we are already preparing to roll out part-time and job-sharing employment opportunities in our organisations to not just widen the talent pool we can tap, but also to optimise resource utilisation within our businesses.

Secondly, we notice changes in the talent acquisition space. The conventional talent acquisition models are giving way to more agile, digitally oriented and experience focussed processes. Technological tools and AI are driving up the accuracy levels in candidate sourcing, screening, and job-matching. While at one end, recruitment has got akin to assembly line production, on another end it is adopting ‘moments that matter’ approach to provide an individualised experience to candidates.

Third, talent markets across the globe are tightening, leading to accelerated competition in niche markets or rare skills. This is causing talent demand and supply mismatch.

How are you integrating HR and technology to deliver a superior employee experience and drive business growth?

As a Science and Technology company, we find technology intersecting with practically everything we do in our Life Science, Healthcare and Electronics businesses as well as enabling functions.

In HR specifically, we have formed a People Data & Technology (PD&T) group that looks at employee life cycle journey and helps design and deploy tools and metrics that enable us to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of HR processes.

Using technology, we have integrated self-service and manager service features in most HR processes that empower our people to own people-related decisions and improve end-user experience.

Additionally, we are investing in creating real-time HR analytic tools and dashboards. These are being developed in conjunction with business stakeholders to ensure their output fosters timely and fact-based decision-making for growth and expansion.

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