Rethinking Engagement, Rewards & Feedback For New Normal


The onset of the pandemic has brought on significant changes and challenges in the world of work. There is no normal the workforce is getting back to, rather a hybrid workplace geared by technological innovations to accommodate remote employees appears to be the future. During such a climate, it is integral for industries across various sectors to pave the road ahead. One way of doing this is by reinventing employee engagement strategy and innovating new and continuous mechanisms for reward and feedback to boost and strengthen employee morale and productivity. In this webcast, People Matters in partnership with Darwinbox discussed key lessons discussed below for rethinking engagement, rewards and feedback for the new normal. This session was moderated by Aditya Gupta, Director-Enterprise Accounts, Darwinbox and our speakers were Mariawaty Santoso, Corporate Head of HR, PT. Mitra Adiperkasa Tbk; Cheryll Ruth Lat-Agsaoay, VP-HR Head, SM Supermalls; and Abhishekh Mathur, VP, Chief People Officer, VNG Corporation. 

Diversity in the COVID Experience and Employee Engagement Strategy:

There is no one employee engagement strategy that caters to all because of the variations in the workplace trends and challenges of Covid at both a regional level as well as an industry level. For the retail sector, which is a heavily brick and mortar business, what aided this industry during such a time in the case of Mitra Adiperkasa and SM Malls is the accelerated digitalisation of the company through the launch of new e-platforms for customers. Diversity in the products available was also a key advantage as it catered to the changing wants and needs of the customers.

VNG Corporation had quite a different experience when compared to the retail sector. Being a technology company based in Vietnam which had controlled the epidemic well, employees had enjoyed working from home for quite some time until the end when lockdowns started being implemented. All its four divisions namely gaming, e-platforms, digital payments, and cloud services continued to bring in more users and revenues and the company experienced significant growth. It was also able to attract a lot of new talent by tapping into new and earlier inaccessible talent markets due to remote working conditions. The acknowledgement of such diversity across regions and industries highlight how essential it is to investigate such regional trends and challenges prior to designing an EE model because one size does not fit all. However, the only thing common is the acceleration of digitalisation to meet the demands of a hybrid workplace.

Open communication channels for retaining motivation and morale of old and new hires:

Communication and connection are the key and a range of technological mechanisms are relied upon to fulfil this need. Hosting webinars, providing material resources to enable a smoother WFH transition, online learning and development programs, open houses with leaders, regular online lunch and coffee sessions and virtual onboarding sessions through video lectures and e-learning programs are some of the ways in which companies attempt to maintain the human connect through technology. Given the uncertainty and health risks associated with the pandemic, it is also important to develop stringent health protocols at the worksite and encourage vaccination for the health and well-being of the employees. Apart from open, accessible communication channels and meeting health concerns, leadership comes to play an integral role in EE strategy. One of the first steps it must take, according to Cheryll is the transformation of grand business priorities into functional priorities that could help streamline business and employee needs and abilities. 

Authentic and Empathetic Managers for strengthening experience:

It is important that performance must not be the key focus when it comes to interacting with employees but rather empathy, the ability to be a good, active listener when it comes to recognising the challenges that employees are met with. One-on-one in-depth discussions are crucial, especially mentor and mentee online interactions. The role of leadership is more significant than ever before as jobs are changing and situations which one never faced before have to be dealt with. There is a need to make sound judgements during times of crisis, even if it falls outside company procedures, to backup these judgements and to be continuously flexible with employees by taking their personal challenges into consideration. Along with soft skills, it is essential that managers and those in leadership positions have high digital literacy, analytical thinking and are data driven in a fast-paced environment.

Technological innovations as a key resource:

While Zoom meetings and MS Teams tend to be the norm to continue employee engagement, companies are innovating new strategies to enable smoother onboarding and feedback mechanisms. VNG has introduced a buddy system for fresh hires to aid them in becoming a part of the company wherein one networked person helps them navigate this new arena and assists them in building connections with other members of the company. SM Malls along with a buddy system have also launched the SM Life App to enable contact tracing for the safety of their employees. They have also introduced an idea bank to make employees feel involved and included by using their ideas for the internal development of the company and for catering to the changing needs of the customers. For maintaining positive and timely feedback, an internal customer experience feedback mechanism has been launched to gauge how the workforce are servicing one another. 

A final and crucial takeaway from this session is how technology is only one half of the story, what is equally important is how people innovate. And these innovations rest on the recognition of regional trends and challenges, placing importance on the wellbeing and morale of the workforce and how leadership can play a crucial role in not just accelerating the digitalisation of the hybrid workplace but to do so in a smooth fashion by centring the workforce and its needs and capacities. 

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