hybrid workforce: As employees return to office, Corporate India wants them to bond

By admin Nov24,2023

Amid growing encouragement for workers to return to office, companies that champion hybrid and flexible work options are increasingly focusing on employee engagement initiatives to reduce the disconnect and boost productivity.

Company executives ET spoke with said the “disconnect” is not only impacting collaboration and productivity, but also leading to lack of bonding. The employee engagement initiatives are seen benefiting all, especially the younger workers who had taken up their first job around the time people were asked to work remotely due to the pandemic, they said.

NatWest Group, Tech Mahindra, EY, and Capgemini are among the companies that have launched a host of initiatives, including frequent team catch-ups, in-person group sessions, ‘fun at work’ and sports events, and assigning ‘buddies’ to the new employees – all aimed at promoting cohesiveness at work and improving productivity. NatWest Group has so far organised more than 40 in-person group sessions for employees who joined during the pandemic.

“We realised that the 7,000-plus colleagues who joined us virtually during the pandemic had missed the opportunity to deepen relationships and build connections,” said Maneesh Menda, head of human resources, international hubs, NatWest Group. “This was part of our strategy to engage them.”

According to a recent employee experience survey by Qualtrics, 83% of the new hires who participated in the survey reported lower engagement at work, indicating a decline in the ‘first-year experience’. Moreover, only 24% of them affirmed their ‘intent to stay’. Other companies like Tech Mahindra are leveraging technology to drive employee engagement.

“With a dispersed and large workforce, we have leveraged technology to embed people engagement in our core business strategy, TechMHRNxt,” said Harshvendra Soin, global chief people officer at Tech Mahindra.The tech firm has launched an internally developed artificial intelligence (AI) coach to nudge managers and engage with employees. It has also rolled out BeMe, an AI-powered tool which enables robust engagement among employees. Others like EY and Capgemini are focusing on improving the onboarding system.At professional services firm EY India, every new employee is paired with a peer-level colleague (a ‘buddy’) who has at least three years of experience at the firm. These ‘buddies’ serve as primary points of contact for the new workers, helping them adjust in the organisation, thereby driving better engagement, said Sandeep Kohli, EY India talent leader.

Capgemini has piloted the India Continuous Assimilation Program, which supports new workers to feel welcomed, engaged, and supported during onboarding, and to instill a culture of belongingness. “The onboarding journey of the employee starts prior to the actual joining and culminates with them culturally acclimatising to the organisation,” said Aarti Srivastava, chief human resources officer, India, Capgemini.

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