As organisations look forward to post-pandemic work culture, many are planning to offer hybrid and flexible work environment to their employees in order to thrive in the New Normal. In an exclusive interaction with Upasna Nischal, Head of HR, India at Fidelity International tells us the exclusive advantages of their recently launched 'Dynamic Working’ model. Nischal also went on to discuss the major multi-layered challenges HR leaders are facing in order to establish flexible work culture and manage diverse teams.

1) What productivity tools are you using in order to thrive in the new age of performance management?

The new world order ushered in by Covid 19 is hyper-distributed, fluid and boundary-less. The digital transformation initiatives that businesses have embarked on will continue for years. Although, as an organisation, we were already on the journey of digital transformation, the pandemic greatly expedited the disruption. For us, it was important to provide a balance between business continuity, employee engagement and wellbeing.

We enabled remote working for all our employees across the globe in the past year by accelerating collaboration tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Mural, Microsoft Whiteboard etc., as channels to get our work done and stay connected. These tools used extensively now, have been helping our staff get comfortable with them by regularly sharing best practices and training around their usage, like holding effective virtual meetings, presenting on zoom, online meeting etiquettes etc. In addition to these tools, our HR teams are also leveraging automation and data to reinvent and redesign talent management strategies for the new hybrid world.

2) Do you think technology can cover it all? What are the major multi-layered challenges HR leaders would face in order to manage teams?

As we have seen in the last year, technology has been the critical enabler in helping organisations succeed in the flexible hybrid work environment, which we call ‘Dynamic Working’ at Fidelity International. However, technology alone cannot be the panacea for success in the new world; we need to equally focus on creating workplaces of tomorrow which are flexible and allow employees to collaborate and engage well to develop winning solutions.

Over the last 18 months, we have learned that we can adapt brilliantly as individuals and teams and run our business in a way that we never imagined possible. In addition to providing tools, technology, resources and best practices, we ensured regular communications with all our people as we transitioned into the new remote working model - this helped them stay connected with the organisational strategy and plans. We also focused on providing robust upskilling and training materials for managers to prepare them for conversations with their teams around work arrangement, performance expectations, wellbeing, collaboration, and engagement in a hybrid flexible world.

The pandemic threw interesting challenges at the corporate world - HR teams collaborating with other functions have successfully spearheaded strategic changes to navigate rapidly changing expectations. In addition, we worked on defining and building skills and capabilities for the future, strengthening the organisational values and culture, and going the extra mile to ensure we include every team member regardless of whether they are on-premise or online. It has been an evolutionary process and would require us to be agile and make conscious efforts on an ongoing basis.

Moving forward, the physical infrastructure of our offices will play an equally vital role in our success in the new world - we must design them in such a way that our employees feel included and connected regardless of their physical location. We need to make space for virtual collaboration, brainstorming rooms, huddles, performance management discussions, informal chats etc. There is also a need to provide technical tools and resources for a seamless transition into the hybrid world.

Lastly, our values must become the golden thread that helps bind our people and sustain our culture while working in the hybrid model.

3) What is your prediction about the future of work?

In future, as organisations move towards hybrid working, they will scale and transfer their working strategies from traditional to digital. On the back of technology and digital transformation, organisations may also want to review their operating models to create a flexible distribution of work to maintain continuity and reduce dependence on any group or location of talent. Technical advancements are also helping organisation on the hiring front as they now have much better access to a broader talent pool. Employees also have more significant opportunities to apply for roles beyond their immediate realm with flexible operating models. We are already seeing employees are enjoying career vitality at Fidelity.

4) Tell us more about FLEXIBLE ‘DYNAMIC’ WORKING? What are the exclusive initiatives that the company is working on?

We regularly survey all our employees to get a sense of what they are thinking and feeling. It is a real positive step-change for our business and the whole of our Fidelity family.

Our vision is to be a truly flexible employer, encouraging and trusting all employees globally to perform their role in the way that works best for them, our business, our colleagues and our clients. Dynamic Working will be just that: a flexible combination of both home and office working. It’s essential to strike the right balance to make sure it works for our employees, co-workers, business, and clients. We encourage our employees to think about planning their work pattern to optimise connectivity with key stakeholders and take personal ownership for developing their career at Fidelity.

Our Dynamic Working model rests on three essential principles:

  1. We offer maximum flexibility to employees to work from home and office, considering their role to work effectively with teams and deliver for our clients.
  2. We measure performance based on what employees provide and contribute, not on when and where they operate their contractual hours.
  3. We trust everyone will make sensible choices around how they work and collaborate with colleagues effectively.

Dynamic working is effective immediately, but our offices worldwide are still at different stages of returning due to the pandemic. Therefore, this policy is in its early days of implementation, and we will learn and iterate as we go.

5) What is one major thing that keeps every employee connected or gives that sense of belongingness in this hybrid work model?

The one thing that has kept us going in the last year and would continue to be a source of inspiration for us is that we all are strongly tied with our shared purpose of creating better futures for our colleagues, clients and customers. Guided by this common purpose, we constantly strive to be there for each other during the time of need, be it for their wellbeing or professional support. Last year has been a testament to how our values of Trust and Integrity came alive as we transitioned into the new world of work and demonstrated extreme resilience. Our purpose and values will continue to guide us as we embark on our exciting new journey of Dynamic Working.

This interview was originally published in BW People.