Article: Trust your employees to know what works best for them: Swiss Re’s Sanjiv Agarwal

Culture

Trust your employees to know what works best for them: Swiss Re’s Sanjiv Agarwal

Giving employees the freedom to tailor their work to fit their demands for a work-life balance will often yield a positive impact on their engagement and productivity, says Sanjiv Agarwal, Head HR of Swiss Re, Southeast Asia.
Trust your employees to know what works best for them: Swiss Re’s Sanjiv Agarwal

Sanjiv Agarwal is a seasoned HR Management professional with over 26 years of experience. At Swiss Re, he is responsible for implementing organisational design and business strategies through people practices, institutionalising and aligning the organisational culture with the best-in-class practices. Sanjiv has a proven track record of operations management, HR leadership, culture transformation, risk governance, change implementation and strategy formulation. He is also an active member of the Forbes Human Resources Council. Before Swiss Re, he was a Senior Vice President associated with HSBC Global Resourcing for 16 years. 

In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Sanjeev shares his insights on the critical role leaders can play in strengthening collaboration, ensuring work-life balance and designing the best employee experience in the hybrid workplace. 

For companies with a multi-geographic presence such as Swiss Re’s, what are the traits of the leader who can make hybrid working a success?

Globally, there has been a tectonic shift towards a more humanistic leadership model. Leaders must lead with empathy while fostering resilience as we move towards a hybrid world of work and will only succeed when they build a culture of trust with their teams.

These uncertain times have taught us that the emphasis must be placed on learning to navigate ambiguity, embracing flexibility, nurturing adaptability, and a lot more time and effort in building a cohesive culture across geographies. 

Besides clarity of purpose, leaders today need to provide an enabling and empowered environment for teams to thrive. 

With key leaders spread across geographies, how do we strengthen collaboration when designing people and business strategies? 

Over the years, people strategies have evolved incrementally – as organisations continue to focus on making employees feel secure and purposeful. What has changed is that these strategies are getting better defined and tailored to the culture of that geography. As the workplace extends beyond the office and teams comprise talent beyond traditional demographic profiles, achieving efficacy with generic people strategies can be challenging. 

Empowering leaders at each stage to promote autonomy and build end-to-end trust is the most reliable way to foster collaboration, and this is what we practice at Swiss Re. Our collaboration strategy stems from the spirit of ‘Let’s be smarter together’ – leveraging the diverse strengths and maximising the potential of our talent.

Given flexible working hours, at times, How can leaders create an environment where their people can easily switch off from work and have that work-life balance? 

In today's connected and mobile-savvy society, it is increasingly challenging to resist the impulse to check in, respond to a few quick emails or send instructions instantaneously through mobile devices. 

Leaders should proactively empower employees to establish and enforce their own work-life balance without fear of retribution. Swiss Re’s ‘Own the Way You Work’ initiative equips managers and employees with autonomy to decide how, when and where work is carried out in compliance with their region. This program also successfully enabled a smooth transition to work from home during the COVID-induced pandemic measures. 

How can leadership today leverage digital solutions to build the best work culture and employee experience?

Digital solutions are playing a key role as enablers for work across the globe, spurred by the experience during pandemic lockdowns. These solutions support the whole employee lifecycle, ranging from selection and onboarding through performance and talent management to offboarding experience. 

Swiss Re is using a host of digital solutions to enhance employee experience and strengthen our core tenet of care for our colleagues. Swiss Re continues to invest in the development and deployment of multiple tech solutions in its people processes. 

The larger question is around the maturity and effectiveness of some of the digital solutions available today. We are excited to see further enhancements in the digital offerings focused on improving employee experience, going beyond a process focussed approach. 

What would be your advice to HR leaders on measuring the effectiveness of their hybrid models of work? 

Trust your employees to know what works best for them. Empowering them with the choice to tailor their work according to their work-life balance needs will often yield a positive impact on their engagement and productivity. 

The success of these hybrid models should be measured qualitatively as well as statistically. Shaping data-driven policies and designing streamlined measurement metrics such as Talent engagement, experience, performance, collaboration levels, organisational trust, commitment, and capabilities have been quite effective in assessing the success of different work models. 

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Topics: Culture, Employee Relations, Leadership, #HybridLeadership, #HybridWorkplace

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