Article: Leaders must prioritise workplace experience to attract the best talent: Group CHRO, Sodexo

Strategic HR

Leaders must prioritise workplace experience to attract the best talent: Group CHRO, Sodexo

One of the most visible differences employers can demonstrate to talent and prospective clients is to improve the physical experience of the workplace and make it a destination that embraces hybrid working, collaboration and socialization, says Annick de Vanssay – Group Chief Human Resources Officer, Sodexo.
Leaders must prioritise workplace experience to attract the best talent: Group CHRO, Sodexo

The most valuable resource for a company is its workforce, and its continued success depends on healthy, motivated employees. This makes it imperative for leaders to make sure that employees feel appreciated and engaged both within and outside of the office. It's crucial for organisations to create an environment at work that is supportive of hybrid work, place an emphasis on connecting with employees and enhancing personal engagement, and enhance the workplace environment to better support employees' well-being. For organisations to succeed, upskilling and empowering the current workforce is also essential. “They can tackle a lot of these priorities using HR technologies which have taken centre stage when it comes to addressing workplace challenges,” says Annick, in an interaction with us.  

Annick de Vanssay, who has held the position of Group Chief Human Resources Officer since August 2021 on an interim basis, was officially appointed on April 1st 2022. She leads the global HR function at Sodexo and represents HR on the Executive Committee.  

Here are the edited excerpts.

The wave of people leaving their jobs over the past few years is showing no signs of slowing down. What can organisations do to stem the tide of mass exodus and how should they rethink talent management?

As the pandemic pushed employees into reconsidering their career priorities, it has fueled the great resignation wave globally. Besides placing greater importance on work-life balance, another often cited reason why employees are leaving their jobs is work burnout and mental fatigue. Being disconnected from colleagues and friends due to remote-working arrangements also contributed to the tide of mass exodus.

Fulfilled, motivated people are the key to a company’s ongoing success. As such, organisations need to shift their priorities and develop a workplace environment suitable for hybrid working, improve employee engagement and workplace environments to support employee mental health.

While organisations have different criteria and search parameters for new hires, together with the shortage of talents, organisations need to start realising that their primary asset is tapping the potentials of existing employees. Upskilling and empowering the current workforce are crucial for organisations to success and fight the war for talents. 

From background checks to benefits to well-being — how are organisations tackling workplace challenges in the hybrid era?  

HR technologies have grown in importance and taken centre stage when it comes to addressing workplace challenges due to the pandemic, with many HR professionals being forced to adapt quickly, using technology to better serve and support remote workers. Despite the growing importance of HR technology, many organisations still struggle with utilising it effectively and developing a robust and useful HR technology solution remains a challenge. According to the HR Research Institute’s new analysis, while almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents say their HR tech supports the organisation’s business goals and strategies well or extremely well, 37% say their tech support goals and strategies only moderately well or worse. Roughly a quarter (27%) complain their HR tech stack doesn’t have enough of the solutions or features they need. 

For organisations to fully utilise the benefits of HR technology, it is important that adequate support and trainings are provided for a smooth implementation, together with in-house technical expertise. HR technology ultimately complements the workforce, and thus having the right support plays a key role in maintaining and keeping things going in the workplace. At Sodexo, we’re investing in tech to enable our teams. 

What are some of the areas where businesses are leveraging next-generation work tech solutions in the return-to-work phase? Which areas of business are organisations deploying technology the most?

As the world starts to ease back into their normal life pre-pandemic, employees are also adjusting to the return of the workplace. This transition period allows organisations to rethink and offers a chance to design a more harmonious workplace environment. 

Employers must continue to pay attention to workplace experience to successfully attract the best talent. One of the most visible differences employers can demonstrate to talent and prospective clients is to improve the physical experience of the workplace and make it a destination that embraces hybrid working, collaboration and socialisation. 

To create a more equitable experience for those working remotely, we also need to focus on employee well-being, reduce the risks of burnout and fatigue, and allow the autonomy to experiment with new working practices. This is enabled by technical tools and infrastructure to facilitate digital collaboration and communication.

More organisations are adapting physical workspaces and improving the remote working experience to fully embrace hybrid working. This will enable employees to take on different roles, work collaboratively across teams, and adapt their skills and knowledge to a constantly changing marketplace. In fact, our research finds that 68% of senior executives believe collaborative workspaces in particular will be more important for employees when a widespread return to the office becomes possible.

It is also important to look at creating a sense of purpose when implementing hybrid workplaces. For instance, remote employees can reduce their personal carbon footprint when commuting decreases. At the same time, to create a more sustainable workplace, smart technology can be used to decrease energy usage. 

Technology has emerged as the great enabler, driving business continuity and new ways of working. As such, more business leaders and human resources are involved in this digital revolution to ensure a seamless transition for employees in onboarding these tools and avoiding user fatigue, especially as our reliance on technology is only increasing.

What are the technologies and digital solutions that you are employing to manage people and other business priorities? What next-gen tech are you deploying next?

With a shift to hybrid and remote working over the last two years, productivity applications such as Microsoft Teams and engagement tools such as Kahoot! have been fundamental to supporting our business. Smart glasses that we’ve deployed in places such as Australia allow us to stay connected with the frontline teams and conduct virtual safety walks. 

Specific to HR, we have also increased the number of virtual reality training solutions and mobile onboarding tools. This allows us to reach a wide spectrum of employees more effectively.  Finally, we are embarking on a substantial overhaul of our HRIS to future-proof our business. 

You talked about the importance of employee experience. How can organisations exploit tech to elevate the employee experience and differentiate themselves from the rest?

When we redesigned the Sodexo APAC office in Singapore in 2018, we envisioned a flexible workspace that would cater to the needs of various modes of working due to the need for collaboration and a mobile workforce. For instance, we implemented phone booths and pods, which employees can use for easy collaboration.  

We also leveraged our in-house workplace consultancy, Wx, to optimise our workspace experience and comfort. This included using sensors within our workspace that would detect the number of people to support safe distancing measures.  

A large focus of the workplace is also our in-house cafe area - the X-Change - a multi-use space that is used as our dining area, events space, alternate workspace and even our reception. 

These technologies create more comfort and ease of use, to enhance the physical experience of the space, and facilitate human connections and socialisation. The data collected enables us to make data-driven decisions around space utilisation, or even what kinds of food and refreshments our employees prefer.  

How do you see the adoption of HR tech two years down the line? What are your priorities and new focus areas in 2022 and beyond?

In the last two years, we have witnessed the rise of Activity-Based Working (ABW) — a concept where employees are provided with a variety of unassigned work settings to support them in their varied activities for the day. As a result of lockdown measures imposed across the globe, organisations were forced to implement work-from-home strategies which have now evolved into hybrid work policies. 

With ABW proven to increase productivity and flexibility, more organisations recognise that redesigning job requirements will ensure operational effectiveness and sustainability in the long run. 

The transition towards a hybrid workforce in the next two years will come with more ABW due to the demand for flexible working spaces. More organisations will look at ways to redesign and reinvent their office spaces to be more collaborative, enabled by smart HR technologies, as well as implement strategic measures and tailor their hybrid work arrangements to cater to their business needs whilst scaling down their real estate. 

At Sodexo, our employees’ well-being has always been our top priority. Our focus will be on strengthening mental health support in the workplace, for our employees as well as for our clients. 

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Topics: Strategic HR, #HRTech

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