As we continue to reflect on the profound lessons brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes evident that organisations have undergone a fundamental shift in their perspectives on work, workers, and working models. In early 2022, companies in India and around the world initiated the process of bringing employees back to the office. However, it became clear from the outset that the "new normal" would not seamlessly revert to the "old normal" through a mere wave of a wand or a simple directive. Surveys and studies conducted at local and global levels have unequivocally conveyed the pressing need for HR think tanks to reevaluate and reconfigure conventional fixed-hour, in-office working models.
Organisations are dynamic entities that continuously evolve in response to change. The most successful ones cultivate distinctive organisational cultures that permeate office spaces, shaping the intersection of people, policies, and practices. However, the prolonged period of remote work, coupled with new hires and changes in leadership teams, led to a palpable sense of disconnection from organisational culture across corporations worldwide. In fact, I would venture to say that the surge in attrition witnessed in 2022 was partly a manifestation of this disengagement.
The situation called for some out-of-the-box thinking, with business-enabler functions working together to hit the sweet spot of something that is essentially intangible with the goal of deriving some tangible dividends. Some elements that make up this intangible quotient include sense of belonging, level of energy and motivation among employees, leadership connect, and involvement in beyond-business activities at work.
Bridging the gaps
This April marked the one-year anniversary of our return to office at Wells Fargo. Throughout this past year, we have grappled with the intangible aspects mentioned earlier to varying degrees. Recognising the crucial need of the moment, our teams in India and the Philippines crafted a comprehensive campaign to "reconnect" our people with the organisation. This extensive endeavor encompassed both online and in-person events and contests, utilising all available communication channels over a span of seven months. The campaign's core objectives were to invigorate our employees' knowledge of the organisation, foster a profound sense of pride in its history and achievements, and forge stronger bonds within and beyond teams.
Undoubtedly, there is a compelling case for going the extra mile to fortify organisational culture and cultivate workplace pride in the aftermath of the unexpected disruptions caused by the pandemic. But I would add a caveat here. No matter how pressing the need or how earnest the intent, a programme of this kind cannot succeed unless some conditions are met:
Leadership buy-in: Active endorsement and sponsorship from top executives provide cohesion for organisation-wide programs, bridging the pandemic-induced gap in leadership connections.
Clear and consistent communication: Effective and transparent communication, utilising various channels, ensures employees stay informed about policies, safety measures, and expectations.
Focus on wellness and flexibility: Prioritising employee well-being and offering flexibility during the return-to-work process boosts morale, supported by mental health resources and support programs.
In India, the corporate sector plays a pivotal role in providing social and geographical mobility to a significant portion of the workforce. Amidst discussions on remote work and hybrid models, it is crucial not to overlook the fact that for many individuals migrating from villages and small towns to Tier-1 and metro cities, the physical office space serves as a comfort zone during the transition.
As we reconsider and redefine the parameters of work, it is essential to flip the conventional model and bring the organisation to the employee, rebuilding the weakened connection that occurred during the pandemic. When we successfully accomplish this, we truly prioritise the well-being of our people.