Nidhi Marwah, Group Managing Director for The Executive Centre has led a career that has spanned more than 20 years in the hospitality and premium real estate industry. Nidhi began her career with the Taj Group of hotels before a short stint in Barbados, also in the luxury hospitality industry. She joined Intercontinental Hotels Group and was later part of the pre-opening team for Marriott Hotels in Hyderabad. She joined The Executive Centre for the launch of the first India space at Kalpatru Synergy in Mumbai. Now, 14 years later she manages a large team across different regions. From a one-woman army to an actual army, Nidhi has overseen the growth of TEC in India, Sri Lanka and most recently the Middle East.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Nidhi shares her take on the role of leadership in designing flexible working practices, the critical role technology can play, how organisations can retain talent and why they must be receptive to the ongoing evolution of workspace design.
When it comes to embracing hybrid working models, what are some pain points that need to be addressed by the leadership bench early on? What are some best practices you would recommend for the successful adoption of hybrid workspaces?
Workforce trends like the ‘Gig Economy’ and ‘The Great Resignation’ have proven that pay-scale and cosmetic changes in policies are not enough to retain the current workforce. Unlike the previous generation of employees, the current demographic of the workforce will not contest policies or demand change but opt for alternatives. Organisations are still comprehending the needs of the new workforce and hence keeping workspace strategies fluid. However, there are a few trends that we see emerging across all sectors.
- The need for tangible change is the first: Gen Z workforce is fast to dismiss changes that are cursory in nature and value well-defined strategies that help day-to-day functionality.
- Workforce strategies that are built to champion flexibility are a big draw. Multiple touchpoints within the same city where employees can step into work, collaborate and access required infrastructure, are expected.
- The balance between privacy and collaboration: With the workforce returning to the office after working from home, the office design needs to facilitate options of both privacy and social interaction, equally. While interaction and collaboration need to be catered to, working in isolation is just as important. For individuals, it means maintaining control over your immediate environment and privacy to work, and on an organisational level, the privacy of the workspace gives the company control over culture and brand.
How can technology play a critical role in transitioning to flexible working practices?
The technology used in day-to-day business practices evens the playing field for employees working in different regions, making productivity location agnostic. Organisations need to ensure that the technology is well integrated across different locations and demographics of the workforce.
An efficient workspace strategy armed with the right technology can encourage and simplify access to new technology, thereby increasing acceptance and active usage of various systems. But for the long-term success of any technology, it is essential that it is designed for and allows easy access to the full strength of the workforce, across different generations.
Given how leaders and your workforce get spread across geographies in the hybrid model of work, how can businesses strengthen work culture and collaboration between hybrid teams?
Flexibility is expected not only in the physical office design, workspace strategies and planning but agility in overall business operations. While talent acquisition is at the forefront, talent retention seems to be the pain point for organisations today. Most of the workforce hired over the last few years has had minimal to no contact with the organisational culture and structure.
With talent inductions done virtually and diminished social capital with the leadership, new talent runs the risk of being disconnected from the big picture perspective, company goals and value systems established over time.
Employees who were part of the organisation before the pandemic have the advantage of being ingrained into the value system and long-term business strategies. This disconnect could make new team members feel less aligned and put them at a potential disadvantage which contributes to the spike in attrition rates. Workspace strategies need to be built to minimise this gap and allow new employees the opportunity to be inducted into the company socially and culturally.
Flexible workspace strategies arm the companies to attract and retain talent by giving them the choice of working in their comfort, flexible timings, addressing pain points and being receptive to the ongoing evolution of workspace design.
Given the blurring lines between office and home due to flexible working practices, what is the role of leadership in ensuring a clear-cut work balance and addressing issues such as digital fatigue or burnout?
With the ever-evolving workspace strategies, it is vital for leadership to set some overarching standards concerning workspace, expectations from employees, productivity, access to technology and business functions. Clear communication to all teams about what is expected of them and what tools are available to them, would help in levelling the playing field across locations and arm the workforce with a sense of stability.
With organisations regaining business momentum, the primary goal is to boost operational productivity and expedite recovery. The adoption of a hybrid work model allows organisations to maximise productivity through a physical office while also allowing flexibility by making collaborations location agnostic. Employees have realised that it is feasible to be productive in alternative work modes while managing fatigue caused by long periods of working from home.
Office design needs to be built to nurture creativity, dismantle hierarchy, and be designed for inclusivity.
The hybrid working model is still evolving but when it comes to measuring effectiveness, the right strategy allows the workforce to adapt to change at a fast pace, acts as a catalyst for business continuity, and arms workforce with equal opportunity and amenities across locations and drives productivity.