Article: ‘The work tech infrastructure for hybrid work design is unique’

HR Technology

‘The work tech infrastructure for hybrid work design is unique’

“We work closely with our digital team to drive digital awareness, celebrate line managers who are early adopters, incentivise habit building in digital learning programs, prioritise tech investments and constantly reinvent to stay relevant for today and tomorrow,” says Yojana Gawade, Director (People & Organisation) at Mars Petcare, India.
‘The work tech infrastructure for hybrid work design is unique’

Yojana Gawade has 15 + years of experience across the Business Partnering and Centre of Excellence verticals of the Human Resources/People function.

She is presently serving as Director (People & Organisation) at Mars Petcare, India

Prior to Mars, she was working with Mondelez India Foods Pvt Ltd. where she most recently was the Capability lead for the Asia Pacific & Middle East region. She was responsible for design & deployment of leadership roadmaps across 6 business units and has also worked on embedding future forward capabilities like agile & digital.

Before her role as Capability Lead, Yojana was Organisation Effectiveness Lead and anchored various culture & diversity programs for Mondelez India. She extensively partnered with Integrated Supply Chain & Sales function on transformation & change management agendas. She also worked in Malaysia as the talent management lead for the business unit & and was pivotal in establishing commercial career paths & entry talent programs.

Yojana joined Mondelez India (erstwhile Cadbury) in May 2007 as a Management Trainee post completing her Master’s from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management Studies & has also studied Law.

In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Yojana talks about key considerations for leaders as they explore worktech investments in 2022, navigating the change management curve that accompanies worktech adoption and how to overcome the biggest barrier to a digitally ready future-fit workforce.

Here are excerpts of the interview.

How do you see the role of worktech in the emerging hybrid ecosystem? How is the need for worktech influencing Mar's business model?

Hybrid work represents the biggest shift to how we will work today and tomorrow. As they say, this has been the biggest reset. The work tech infrastructure for hybrid work design is unique and a new element and we are all part of this big experiment. And it will work only if we are listening to our employees to understand their fundamental needs and requirements. For us at Mars Pet nutrition, collaboration has been our true strength and this has enabled the business and our associates to embrace this shift relatively easily. 

We have always invested ahead of time in technology in functions like Supply, Sales & Digital Commerce and this new era has really pivoted our thinking about infrastructure, policies, and programmes to enable this shift both for our employees and the organisation in a mutually beneficial way.

Fundamentally, Work Tech is making business leaders be in a ‘design thinkers’ mindset.

The technology ecosystem is fundamentally shifting:

  • The way we size up business opportunities and define disruptive scale
  • Investing in tools which allow for data-based decisions with best-in-class sales technology
  • Freedom to access tools from anywhere and at individual convenience
  • Agility not only in processes but also in individual behaviours

There are four key measures that we have aligned our worktech practices along:

  • Disruptive scale: Our Global Onboarding Module is standard across all markets and drives consistency of experience
  • Data based decision making: Quarterly review of Talent Metrics help to proactively manage retention risks, measure actions Vs intentions
  • Accessibility: We have redesigned our recognition platform "Oorja" as an asynchronous platform and accessible as per convenience
  • Agility: Celebrating Agile test and learning in open forums; Embed Agile behaviours and drive collaboration in a hybrid setup

This new era of technology and hybrid ecosystem is essentially pushing us as HR leaders to pause, think, reset and try to design solutions keeping in mind the above factors. 

We have been making conscious investments in the technology space to ensure we have fit-for-future people management practices across moments that matter.

What are some key considerations as you explore investments in worktech this year?

To ensure that our teams are value centred and connected whilst operating in a hybrid set-up, we anticipate investments in the technology space. Few key considerations that play an active role in the decision-making are:

  • The integration of the new work tech with the existing systems and processes
  • The user experience that would be brought in by the change
  • Long term value and sustainability of the worktech as we scale up 

I feel the domain of “employee well-being” has a huge opportunity to explore investments to truly personalise initiatives vs vanilla offering. As organisations how can we proactively support employees to balance well-being?  This is the biggest question to solve for and tech can play a pivotal role.  

Equally as an organisation how are we leveraging nudge theory to embed the existing technology and improve the adoption levels to start with.   

For example, our learning systems at Mars are best in class, but to my field sales organisation which is constantly on the move and is geographically spread, what nudges might help? Our Sales Capability team launched a Team based learnathon and the adoption of the learning offers skyrocketed because the programs were handpicked, and we did not leave our employees lost in the vast sea of programs but gave them a curated learning experience. And in addition to that we made learning fun by making it a team-based event.

Any worktech investment would be associated with navigating through the change management curve.

As a team and organisation, our approach would be “Slow Down to Go Fast” to ensure that the teams working on the ground have ample time to welcome and appreciate the change rather than getting caught in the trough of despair.

The need for digital literacy continues to grow. However, digital readiness of talent remains on the down low. What must organisations do to bridge the gap?

I would say, yes, the need for digital literacy will continue to grow, however, the biggest barrier is not literacy but designing fit for purpose systems which lead to poor adoption rates.

There are many examples in the last 2 years where we have seen how our local pet shops, kirana stores have adapted to the digital economy. What enabled this shift is the external event and ease of technology. Therefore, our constant endeavour at Mars is to focus on the design of programmes, tech, and initiatives. 

The real bridging of the gap is in curiosity and not in digital literacy. At Mars Pet Nutrition, our digital team is embedded with our functions, and we work closely with them to drive digital awareness, celebrate line managers who are early adopters, incentivise habit building in digital learning programs, prioritise tech investments and constantly reinvent to stay relevant for today and tomorrow.   

What are your thoughts on leveraging digital tools to enhance employee engagement and recognition? How can leaders retain the human element in these functions amid a rapidly increasing influx of technology?

At Mars, we have an integrated employee recognition platform “Oorja” that is intuitive and helps line managers to drive recognition in their teams. There are a multitude of options available in the platform, from spot to value-based awards to quarterly and annual recognition. We have seen a 5x increase in spot recognitions and our employees continue to use this platform.

Simple design principles of keeping the portal open for self and team nominations and accessible via mobile has made a fundamental difference.

From 2020 till today as a business we have seen unprecedented growth and we see a linear impact on our engagement surveys and inspite of 2022 being called out as a great resignation year, our attrition levels have been the lowest in Industry.

Which means providing top-notch employee experience is not just lip service. It requires a systematic approach keeping employees at the centre for any solutions. Any digital tool cannot replace the interaction of an employee with his/her manager. At Mars, we strive to ensure that we have all the systems and processes in place that equip managers to have meaningful conversations with their direct reports. 

While we are working towards bringing in the personal touch into the digital platform driven initiatives, one of the important aspects that we are working on includes design thinking. Creating personas of our employees based on data and empathy driven descriptions followed by defining moments that matter for the personas and integrating the same into our existing platforms. This integration would help us in scaling up the employee experience through better data, systems, and capabilities.

What is your advice for leaders, as they revamp business models and people strategy for the rapidly changing world of work?

I believe there are three important aspects that will help leaders succeed in this ever-changing environment – Sticking to the brass tacks, mastering vulnerability, and staying curious.

Creating a work culture where people embrace and respect each other would help unlock the full potential of any function, team, or organisation. Inclusion is a space where every leader should make conscious investment in everyday actions versus bold statements. For the world that we visualise tomorrow, let's start building it today. 

"What distinguishes the greatest leaders of our time, it's that success is very rarely a goal for them; it’s a byproduct of other goals that they have.” Adam Grant

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Topics: HR Technology, #WorkTech, #HybridWorkplace

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