The pandemic has caused us to rethink how we work. Over the past two years, companies have scrutinised their working models, cultures, and values. Organisations are forced to consider the changing needs of the workforce and meet those needs. One way they are doing this is by active listening and being receptive and proactive to changes. Modern workers place a high value on flexibility and autonomy.
"Enabling people to take ownership of their work and providing them with the flexibility they need has been a successful strategy for us," says Anjani B Kuumar who along with his role as HR Head at MX Player, is also an entrepreneur and a success coach. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Anjani shares his insights on the prospects of a 4-day workweek idea, leveraging new technologies and meeting the changing trends of a hybrid workforce.
Here are the edited excerpts:
Do you believe that the four-day workweek, which several countries are experimenting with, will be successful in Southeast Asian nations?
The 4-day work week has been an interesting experiment in workplace strategy in recent years Before implementing a four-day work week, we first need to define what it really means – lesser hours or condensed hours. The same number of hours condensed into fewer days may not necessarily ensure productivity and happiness.
In my view, a true 4-day week would mean working for 4 days without increasing the hours each day. While a lot of pilot programmes have shown potential benefits in terms of increasing employee happiness, their longevity is something that will depend on a lot of factors. One of the key factors in the success of a four-day workweek is that productivity should not take a hit. To maintain 100% productivity in 20% less time will require a conducive environment with new technologies, an efficient support system, and an apt workplace culture.
For this model to be successful globally, companies will first need to check if their environment and culture are enabled for this. Another important factor is that it might be difficult for a few functions and industries to function with the four-day workweek, like those that require round-the-clock customer support. Technology, specifically AI, can be an enabler for this.
What talent strategy do you have to keep ahead of the disruptive developments emerging in the modern workplace?
The unique mix of media and technology makes our workforce and culture vibrant and dynamic, which has helped us in both talent attraction and talent retention. Having such an amazing culture in place makes it very easy for us to showcase what we have to offer and find talented people who are a great fit and add value to our culture.
The idea is to base the talent strategy on understanding the needs of the ever-evolving workforce. This requires a lot of active listening and being receptive and proactive to changes. The modern workforce values flexibility and autonomy to carry out their responsibilities. Enabling people to take ownership of their work and providing them with the flexibility they need has been a successful strategy for us.
The hybrid work style comes with several challenges, including engagement and trust issues. What, according to you, are the key questions that leaders need to address to solve this predicament?
There are several challenges posed by remote and hybrid working, such as communication, perception bias, and digital fatigue, among others. The questions that leaders need to address will depend on the industry and culture of the company. For us, communication and engagement were challenges that we had foreseen and taken proactive steps, like enabling organisational connections through newsletters, leadership connects and using advanced HR technology to keep the communication going. This helped our teams collaborate effectively even while working completely remote, at the peak of the pandemic.
As we moved ahead, we realised the challenges posed by remote working in terms of hindering creative collaboration and put forth a hybrid working model.
Another question that the leaders need to address is the inherent culture of the workplace. At MX Player, we have taken conscious efforts to inculcate trust as a part of our value system through our No Attendance Policy emphasises the trust that we put in the integrity of our employees to have the best interests of the company at heart. There must be sincere efforts to understand the pulse of the workforce and address issues like perception bias head-on. Culture is top-driven, and our leadership team, which comprises new-age leaders, live by the values of integrity, trust and flexibility, which has helped us drive the same culture in all teams.
What top technology trends do you think will catch up fast as organisations adapt to the new world of work?
The new world of work, with more flexibility and focused productivity, has been facilitated by technology. Collaborative tools like Slack have helped our company to keep the connection alive while working with distributed teams across the world. Cloud-based self-serve platforms are enabling and easing efforts toward rewards & recognition, wellness, and engagement. Holistic wellness has become an important priority for businesses and requires technology enablement in the form of gamification and advancements in the wearable tech space.
An important part of adapting to the new world of work is how organisations ensure effective learning and development for the workforce. With the changing landscape of work, learning has also undergone a change that goes beyond the change from
Classroom-based learning to online learning. With the gamification of courses and self-paced learning, we are facilitating talent development for the evolving workforce. As a digital-first company, we have also focused on leveraging AI to ensure a seamless employee experience. Our AI-enabled people bot helps with employee feedback and actionable insights through analytics. It also helps with employee queries and processes with an interface that aims to replicate human connections.
What are some words of advice you would like to share with our community when developing new work arrangement strategies?
We have seen unprecedented changes over the past few years and will continue to do so. The agility and ability to adapt to these changes will help design new work strategies that help attract and retain talent. One way to stay on top of these rapid changes is to understand the needs of your workforce. While the flexibility provided by work-from-home is attractive, people have started to miss work-from-office for the personal level of connection and collaboration it provides. This led to a hybrid working model, which a lot of companies have now imbibed. This is just one example, but active listening will help companies act on people’s needs and come up with a win-win situation for both the business and the workforce.
While technology will definitely define the next decade of workplace trends, the differentiator will be how we can ensure personalisation. Digital fatigue is real, and while technology will facilitate new work arrangements, we will have to find ways to keep the personal connection with the workforce alive.