Article: Smart work environments prioritise speed, quality of output: Virtusa’s Global HR Head

Employee Engagement

Smart work environments prioritise speed, quality of output: Virtusa’s Global HR Head

Companies are increasingly focusing on providing an ecosystem that enables learning, innovation, and forging career paths, thereby, bringing out the best in each employee, says Sundararajan Narayanan, Chief People Officer & Executive Vice President, Virtusa.
Smart work environments prioritise speed, quality of output: Virtusa’s Global HR Head

When we consider employee productivity as a whole, the quality of the output is the most important factor. Hence, organisations today are shifting their focus to quality of outcomes, development and upskilling, and gamification in order to improve the productivity and performance of their employees. In this interview, Sundararajan Narayanan, the HR chief of Virtusa, sheds light on how organisations are managing employee productivity and using new performance indicators for their hybrid workforce.

Sundararajan is a veteran in the talent management and human capital space with over two decades of diverse experience across key areas in human resources.  A subject matter expert in all things HR, Sundar is highly skilled in people development, succession planning, next-generation performance scorecards, leadership hiring, and top talent retention.

Here are the edited excerpts.

How are organisations shifting the needle on performance and productivity management?

With the current talent landscape, assessments are a thing of the past. The focus today is on staying relevant with the right upskilling to enable performance that adds value to the organization. Companies are focusing on providing an ecosystem that enables learning, innovation, and forging career paths, thereby, bringing out the best in each team member. Performance assessment now is more outcome and skills based than perceptive like in the past.

As we look at productivity from a holistic view, the main focus is on the quality of the output.  In today’s smart working environment, the onus is on speed of delivery and quality of the output. The shifts that organisations are seeing today are focusing on quality of outcomes, development and upskilling, and learning through gamification to improve performance and productivity.

How are you rethinking performance evaluations in 2022? What are the new performance indicators that you use for your hybrid workforce? 

In the current workforce, 60-70% of operations are virtual. The job market has readjusted to the new ways of working. This has led to a massive surge in productivity and growth.  The first step towards a holistic performance evaluation is by imbibing the culture of performance into the DNA of the organisation. The "engagement" indicator is becoming the new parameter that directly impacts performance and quality of output.

Engagement in the hybrid world is evolving. We are all learning (people, organisations, managers). Companies are showcasing their best performance currently – the focus now is on how to build a culture where an organisation is viewed as an institution rather than just another place of work.

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How is the role of leaders changing when it comes to tracking and encouraging high performance of the dispersed workforce?

The role of a leader has a broader meaning in today’s workforce. Leaders are viewed as coaches or mentors who have a greater part in shaping the overall development of the teams. The leaders of today need to be adept at managing a workforce across diverse generations like Gen Z, Gen Y, and millennials. 

Service leadership has replaced the traditional leadership style. Leaders are also expected to be influencers, providing mentorship to increase the quality of output, bring out the best in team members, tap potential and build leaders of tomorrow with timely coaching and mentoring.

With employee wellness being recognised as a core element to productivity and performance, what's your take on how to bridge the gap between employee health and productivity?

Employee wellness is now replaced by family wellness as the key trigger of productivity in this hybrid model. In today’s virtual working world where the physical boundaries between work and home are blurred, a family first approach by the organisation has a direct impact on employee wellbeing and productivity.

Organisations need to adopt a socially flexible approach to ensure employee well -being is taken into cognizance while productivity and performance is not compromised. Employee wellness can’t be viewed in singularity. It is the 360 approach that creates an ecosystem of a productive work environment that is at the very core of sustaining consistent productivity.

What, according to you, are the top challenges to boosting employee productivity and measuring performance, especially for remote workers?

Some of the key challenges that we have seen over the past two years are employee availability and productivity. In a fast-paced industry like ours, staying focused and connected to clients, teams, and the organisation is critical. The onus is on organisations to encourage employees to leverage engagement platforms like Zoom, intranet portals, and virtual team building activities to stay connected while working remotely for days and months at a length.

To keep morale high, organisations need to make them feel like an integral part of the team. Leadership connects, townhalls, personalised approaches, and authentic leadership are measures that will help boost employee productivity and performance in these virtual working models.

How are compensation and benefits programmes evolving in 2022? Is it going to be focused on skills-based rather than traditional performance-based?

Keeping up with industry standards, compensation will be skill-based to ensure employees are equipped with the right skills to stay relevant to clients, organizations, and markets.  The focus has shifted to quality of work and value addition rather than quantity and hours of work.

The other parameters that will be considered during the computation would be the quality of performance outcomes, certifications, assets developed, and the learning and application of skills.

Over the last two years, feedback and appreciation culture have come to the fore, along with the importance of employee listening strategy. Have you changed anything in this line?

At Virtusa, we started the "listening culture" very early in the game. We have a structured committee that operates as a horizontal to take action on what we hear from the ground above.

This committee works with the Gen Z council on improvements to be made, actions to be taken, and issues to be addressed to enable better connect, contribution, and technology (reverse mentoring) in the organisation. The current workforce has an active role in the decision-making process, and our work culture enables them with the right tools and platforms.

We have inculcated policy changes to ensure workforce diversity operates in an inclusive environment. The most significant change is incorporating flexibility into all policies and processes in order to remain relevant to this ever-changing workforce.

The process, policies, and technology platforms are designed to "new ways of working", with the focus being on quality of engagement and output rather than hardcoded policies.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, #PerformanceBeyondProductivity, #HRCommunity

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