Seema Unni heads the Human Resources function at Fidelity Investments India. She has over 20 years of experience in varied leadership roles in HR Business Partnership, Mergers & Acquisitions, and Leadership & Organizational Development. Seema has also worked in the consulting and IT/ ITES industry sectors, leading the design and execution of HR strategy, processes and solutions for startup and consolidation phases of organisations.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Seema shares critical actionable insights and values on making hybrid working a success through the era of the power shift. Here are some excerpts.
What are your thoughts on this power shift between employers and employees? How will it impact HR functions and work culture?
Talent shortages or excesses are merely a reflection of prevailing market conditions based on various triggers. Both employer and employee are essential components of a business. Therefore, the current talent situation is not a power shift but merely a new opportunity to redraw the talent landscape.
It is vital for HR not to view the current scenario as a power shift but for us to view ourselves as being custodians of the culture and people plan for an organisation by emphasising the following tenets:
- Building lasting relationships with existing/ new employees by keeping an ear to the ground to gauge associate sentiment and facilitate enhanced engagement through an increased focus on informal and formal connections, associate experience initiatives, etc.
- Adapting policies and practices to suit the changing working model and needs of employees so that they continue to feel invested in and can bring their whole selves to work
- Strengthening engagement and retention by helping build a culture that accentuates the values and ethos of the organisation and creates a sense of belonging.
One of the most significant manifestations of this power shift is seen in recruitment practices. How do we adapt hiring processes to ensure increased talent attraction and retention?
Hiring for the future continues to be a substantial focus area.
Although business pressures might force us to speed up the hiring process at various costs, we should continue to focus on learnability, adaptability, and resilience as essential skills for long-term engagement, growth, and employability.
Some of the best practices would include leveraging technology to automate mundane and repeat tasks in recruitment and candidate management tasks and expanding the hiring horizons, thereby increasing the pool of potential hires.
Experiential interviews where candidates produce a piece of work in discussions which would be very close to what they would be expected to deliver in the roles they would be interviewing for will be an interesting strategy. Simultaneously, organising interviews and gatherings of candidates within the office to give them a peek into the organisation`s work and culture can help raise joining ratios.
When organisations hire for aptitude in addition to the demands of the role, looking out for qualities that would indicate the candidate’s ability to deal with the new work realities of today, such as managing change, successfully adapting to a hybrid working model, fostering connections with hybrid and remote colleagues, and the like would prove fundamental.
Hiring practices also need to cater to existing employees and promote career mobility and development by opening all positions first for internal candidates, organising job fairs, training them on interview preparedness, etc.
As the hybrid workplace becomes our reality, what are some strategies to accommodate remote workers? How do we judge their performance fairly?
We should focus on practices that would be key to making hybrid working a success, as these would also contribute to making performance management practices fair. Such practices include being inclusive and giving enough attention to hybrid and remote employees. This requires genuinely embracing the idea of a distributed workforce and avoiding biases such as proximity bias, for instance.
It is vital to train employees to understand the realities of hybrid working and equip themselves to embrace the transition successfully. Likewise, leaders must develop capabilities to lead change and successfully lead teams in the new workplace.
Periodic team meetings must involve a mix of both hybrid and remote workers. This would help teams get comfortable with working in this new model. Conduct regular check-ins with employees on their work and performance. Use the opportunity to listen, understand and acknowledge their perspectives, inputs, and concerns. Also, share open and honest feedback on their work and reward and recognise deserving employees. Organisations must provide an equal platform for all employees to speak up on any issue. Last but not least, this is a new way of working for all concerned that will slowly evolve. Therefore, it is critical to constantly check in with employees on whether or not they would need any help and provide the necessary support.
What are those critical employee-centric policies that organisations must invest in?
It takes a collective effort. Organisations must invest in educating and raising awareness of inclusivity and recognising behaviours that promote inclusion and psychological safety. Well-being will continue to be necessary. The new work realities require several adaptations and may challenge different people. Also, with the pandemic and continued uncertainty, well-being will demand individual and systemic attention.
Employee benefits will need to be recast to suit the changed work context.
For example, child-care benefits must consider that all employees will not be concentrated in a single location. Similarly, companies must expand their networks of associated hospitals to cater to employees working from anywhere. Changes in existing employment-related regulations will also drive progress on this front.
Investment in new resources and technologies will be necessary to foster collaboration and shape the organisational culture. This would mean investing in redefined workspaces that promote collaborative working and technologies that enhance collaboration.
From your years of experience, what would be your advice to empower HR leaders to adapt to this power shift?
HR must lead the way to influence business models and employee practices toward being more conducive to the new world of work. At a time like this, HR functions would need to help the business stay grounded and not get swayed by ‘perceived’ power shifts by enabling employer and employee to remain anchored in the values and long-term priorities of the firm. This would require HR to understand changing employee needs and anticipate its implications in the new world of work while reflecting on their organisation’s operating principles to lead organisational transformation and build desired capabilities and skills.
HR’s role in driving business- and people-focused practices is more critical now than ever before. HR must assume the role of change catalysts to shape the emerging world of work.