Tanushree Ray heads the HR Function at Shadowfax Technologies. In a conversation with People Matters, she highlights the importance of tech in hybrid workplaces and how organizations are preparing themselves for this new culture. Read the edited excerpts here-
What are some challenges you foresee in implementing a hybrid workplace?
The hybrid model of home, office, and now work from here is already getting impetus, and for good reason. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that heritage work styles aren’t as important as we formerly thought. Though the benefits are more in hybrid methodology than challenges, as we have seen an increase in productivity during this new normal, however, there are times when it comes to remote employees, being out of sight can also take the lead to be out of mind. If HR doesn’t consciously engage remote employees and take extra actions to build trust and connections with colleagues, remote team members can feel left out and less involved.
I would still envisage the need for an office for meetings in which face-to-face communication is deemed necessary, not just for work but a sense of belonging as a team, which will be taken care of with the concept of a hybrid workplace. While conference calls, video meetings, and email threads take care of formal communication, informal conversations that happen in-office and aren’t shared with remote colleagues can jeopardize even the best-placed communication plans.
What kind of a workplace model are you considering for your organization? Do you foresee any major changes?
I do not foresee any major changes in the future. Since the lockdown, it has been work from home for us, and we will continue to do so till this year-end. Beginning in January 2021, we will be looking at a soft opening with 20-25% of employees coming to work. They will come to the office a couple of days in a week, thus ensuring all employees meet in person. This will also enable new recruits to build camaraderie within the team. Being a 3PL organization, we need to be operational at ground level, for smooth functioning across various regions. We have taken utmost care to make sure that we are giving our employees the safest environment to work in.
How are you thinking about employee experience in a hybrid workplace?
I think the concept of a hybrid workplace if managed well, will benefit the organization and employees. It is a positive approach, wherein the employees get a work-life balance. In addition to spending quality time with their loved ones, they will save on their commuting time and cost. And when they come to work, participating in regular team meetings, there will be better bonding and understanding between the team members. Brainstorming ideas and effective team engagement will improve team performance.
How do you view the digital transformation overdrive that the pandemic has forced organizations to go into overnight?
With the advent of technology and telecommunication, it is becoming so much easier when it comes to connecting with employees, customers, and the broad set of stakeholders to which businesses are increasingly responsible.
Being an HR professional myself, I would travel to different cities for campus interviews. But now thanks to Google Meets, Zoom Calls, Facetime, taking interviews from the comforts of the four walls either from my office desk, or from my home has been so convenient and time-saving. Moreover, with the pandemic situation still curbing our movements to a large extent, Video conferencing is the way forward.
With the WFH model, the chances of miscommunication between the team and the organization could pose a challenge. Hence, we have introduced a chatbot within the organization to efficiently collaborate and communicate with the team and specifically for new recruits.
What trends have you observed around HR tech adoption amid the COVID-19 crisis? How is the pandemic changing investments in HR tech?
Implementing HR technology has helped our organization to gather, collect, and deliver information. It has also made communication with employees more efficient. HR Technology provides managers with the necessary decision-making tools to allow them to make more effective HR-related decisions. With the usage of emerging technologies like AI, ML algorithms to gain insights about the HR processes, the adoption of HR tech has witnessed a quantum leap amidst Covid-19. Our team is actively involved in adopting innovative technologies at all levels like – recruitment process, employee engagement practices, training, surveys, and management processes. An emphasis has been laid on mobile connectivity and communication (Chat and visual both) to enable work from home employees to be engaged in the organization at all times.
What do you think the future holds for HR in a data-driven world post the pandemic?
As the pandemic resets major work trends, business leaders must understand that large-scale shifts are changing how people work and how business gets done. We will be shifting focus to a hybrid workplace post the pandemic. COVID19 crisis has accelerated the shift in the way we work. As an organization, it has made us rethink employee planning, management, performance, and experience strategies. Employee safety will be the primary focus of HR in the future. We will ensure that in keeping employees engaged, motivated, safe, and at the same time productive. Technology is facilitating effective communication, with this in mind, we are already grooming to step into a hybrid workplace and accept it as the norm from day one.