Article: Driving employee engagement in a hybrid world of work

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Driving employee engagement in a hybrid world of work

Tackling the core issue of employee engagement in a world where teams are physically distributed and working together has taken a digital turn; a recent People Matters and Extramile webcast had top HR leaders deliberating on the way ahead.
Driving employee engagement in a hybrid world of work

Employee engagement has been a buzzword that’s kept HR leaders' attention for ages. Keeping employees engaged, motivated, and connected has been the cornerstone of talent management practices. Yet it remains a significant challenge for HR across the board. 

The post-pandemic world of today means that companies have to tackle disengagement issues in a rapidly changing world of work. The shift to hybrid has created newer challenges. With a distributed workforce—some working from offices and others remotely— HR leaders play an even more crucial role in ensuring employees are engaged and connected.  

"Engaging and motivating employees is one of the seminal questions in front of HR leaders," noted Animesh Kumar, President - HR & Transformation, ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., as he spoke in a People Matters and Extramile Webcast on Employee Engagement in the Hybrid World of Work. "With hybrid work, there are two major challenges that companies have witnessed. First is the infrastructural problems of engaging people. Companies no longer have shared physical space where they can curate and create the right work environment. Employees are stuck between the four walls of their houses. The other challenge is having some of your teams online and physically meeting each other." According to Animesh, this distributed nature is fast becoming a norm as part of the hybrid work culture creates its issues. 

To tackle this, Charles Godwin P, HR Leader at Zoho Corporation, suggested that companies expand how they look at engagement and who they involve in making sure engagement programs are successful. "Engagement beyond the desk should be a priority. And it needs to be meaningful for employees. And to drive the engagement, we need top leaders, right from CEOs and senior leaders are a major force of driving employee engagement," he added.  

A key facilitator in successful engagement initiatives is using the right digital platforms. "Digital platforms have been solving engagement problems even before the pandemic," noted Pooja Bajaj Chadha, Founder & CEO, ExtraMile. "Digital helps create inclusivity, especially in a hybrid format. Managers can use digital platforms that help them create that bonding and emotional connection."

Empowering managers 

"One does not expect HR professionals to be involved when managers want to schedule a team meeting or any other team tasks. So then why should team engagement be solely HRs responsibility?" noted Pooja. The right digital tools can empower line managers to manage team engagement themselves. She explained how "digital tools today help give the ownership, the accountability, and flexibility to the managers and their teams." This is important as engagement needs to be less sporadic and more instant. 

Managers today play a crucial role in ensuring their employees are motivated and engaged in a work environment that has led many to face social isolation and increasing rates of burnout and disconnection. For many, managers have become the sole touchpoint to the company and not possessing the right tools to drive engagement hampers their ability to make their hybrid teams productive. 

"Today's engagement has to move away from simply being an activity done for employees. This means a shift in the role of HR from doing to enabling. Rather than conducting organisational mandated programs, HR needs to focus on enabling employees and managers to engage in their own hands and create intuitive ways to engage with their workplace," added  Animesh.

Continuous, personalised engagement

With the rise of hybrid work and flexibility becoming a defining part of how companies will operate, companies have to approach engagement as a continuous process. Animesh noted that "the shift to hybrid work has meant that lines between office and work have blurred significantly. As a result, engagement instead of being episodic has to be always-on." 

Personalisation also goes a long way in engaging employees at an individual level. Tech advancements allow targeted engagement programs which meet individual employee needs. "A tech-enabled digital engagement platform today can help companies create appropriate courses and touchpoints to keep employees connected and engaged in the office or remotely," said Animesh.

"That was one of the key problems we wanted to tackle with Extramile Play," added Pooja. "While HR professionals often design engagement programs in a way that addresses organisational needs, this might not always work for line managers for their respective team engagements. Would it not be better than to have the digital tools that allow functional heads to customise such programs according to their team needs to encourage bonding with each other much more impactfully."

Cost-effectiveness and reach

The other important aspect of digital engagement tools is cost-effectiveness and broad reach. When used at scale, Pooja highlighted digital tools that can help companies generate a better ROI for their engagement activities. Digital tools also enable teams spread across different branches or geographies to connect in real-time regardless of physical distance or geographical boundaries. 

With teams no longer localised in a single office space, digital engagement tools prove incredibly advantageous. They offer companies and their teams to engage without significant costs. A similar benefit is extended to companies who have moved to work from the office but have teams scattered across different branches. For them, the question still remains on how to keep the action not restricted to home offices. With digital tools, many get access to easy engagement solutions for remote branches.  

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Topics: HR Technology, Employee Engagement

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