Realising Hybrid Work Model is Here to Stay, We Virtualised 15 Roles Forever: Meghna Gupta, Axis AMC 492

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Speaking to All Things Talent, Meghna Gupta, Head – Human Resources, Axis AMC talks about Axis AMC’s permanent shift to a hybrid working model, virtualising of roles, investing in employee wellness, and exploring talents from the gig-workforce community.

Mission return to work aborted: What was your return to office plans and how did they get affected now? Will offices become a passé?

While we don’t believe that offices will necessarily become passé, remote working has certainly changed the dynamics of how an organisation functions by bringing the hybrid working model at the centre of focus. At Axis AMC, we have already adopted the hybrid working model (2D-3D), wherein employees, depending on their roles and responsibilities, are required to come to the office for either 2 or 3 days and work from anywhere on the remaining days. Not only does it save the employees’ travel time, but it also allows them to take care of their health (by avoiding crowds) and save money that could later be invested or used for personal/professional needs. Today, these working cultures have become a lifestyle that current employees and new joinees expect from their employer and we have very willingly and consciously embedded this into our Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

Realising that the hybrid work model is there to stay, we also went a step ahead by virtualising a few roles forever. This means that increasingly, incumbents in many roles will never be required to visit our office premises. While they will very much be treated at par with any employee visiting the office, the entire life-cycle journey will be delivered digitally or virtually.

Currently, we have over 15 roles in various departments that are virtual. Here’re some of the roles:

  1. Talent Acquisition-HR: We are an organisation of around 650+ employees and a centralised HR function. Even prior to the pandemic the entire workflow of talent acquisition used to happen online over the portal and liaising through the phone. The realisation that such a role can be handled virtually from anywhere was tested during the pandemic and we took the decision to virtualise the role forever.
  2. Digital Products: The primary responsibility of building, managing and developing digital products involve extreme liaising with various stakeholders and primarily with vendors, who are anyways, based outside our office. So, virtualising this role forever was also an easy decision.
  3. Digital Sales: The primary responsibility is liaising with various online portals, vendors, digital products to improve the leads and ultimately enhance sales through digital channels. With the availability of appropriate IT infrastructure and virtual collaboration platforms, virtualising this role didn’t have any impact on efficacy either.

 

“Realising that the hybrid work model is there to stay, we also went a step ahead by virtualising a few roles forever. This means that increasingly, incumbents in many roles will never be required to visit our office premises. While they will very much be treated at par with any employee visiting the office, the entire life-cycle journey will be delivered digitally or virtually.”

Burnout will get worse than it is now as employees have already spent almost two years at home. What can be done to ease the pain?

We really value our employees’ well-being (physical, mental, emotional, and social) and put employee wellness above anything else. We believe that employees are the backbone of any organisation and they need to feel safe, secure, engaged and valued to want to continually deliver to the best of their abilities. We are yet to see the full potential of the third wave but the only way to survive it is to be cautious, attentive, calm, and prioritise the safety and security of individuals and families. During these difficult times, Axis AMC firmly stands alongside the families and friends specific to these trying times.

We intentionally invest and focus on employee wellness that resonates with our philosophy of being responsible towards employees, investors, and society at large. We undertake many initiatives with the sole consideration of enhancing employee wellness across the following four segments:

  1. Physical Wellness: Healthy mind requires a healthy body. Under ‘Health is Wealth’ all employees irrespective of age are encouraged to do an annual health check-up which is completely reimbursed by the company up to a max of INR 7,000. Additionally, we have collaborated with MediAssist to provide Covid care for our people and also extended special quarantine leaves for employees, in case, either employee, or his/her family members get infected.
  2. Mental Wellness: Employee Assistance Program facility is available for all the active employees and their family members where they can avail confidential counselling services from experienced and professional counsellors.
  3. Financial Wellness: Apart from webinars and workshops on financial planning, will creations, nominee signup, etc., we encourage healthy financial habits through ‘The Mutual SIP’ program, wherein employees below manager grade are reimbursed 3 instalments of their SIP up to a max of INR 2,000 per instalment.
  4. Social Wellness: With the objective of creating a positive atmosphere and engaging and uplifting everyone around us, we conduct numerous engagement activities throughout the year and provide platforms for employees to network and learn from each other.
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 The pandemic has made organisations relook at their business continuity plans, making them more flexible in case living with Covid-19 becomes the new normal. How do you think it will change further? How has BCP changed and transformed at Axis AMC?

Let’s broadly look at how businesses have changed drastically over the course of last year. The expectations of customers and employees have changed alike. Realising the seamlessness and ease of digital processes, customers, employees, and all other stakeholders have now become more comfortable with the digital business model and the adoption is only increasing. Employees got comfortable with the idea of ‘Working from Home’. The learnings from the pandemic have helped organisations navigate new working models, optimise available resources, scout and retain talent, and efficiently ensure the mental, emotional, and financial well-being of the employees, thereby changing the employee value propositions dynamically.

At Axis AMC, we have a very open work culture with employees across hierarchies and functions being very approachable. It helps us provide an enriching experience to our employees with a clear and transparent career path for the future. The robust pipeline developed internally through regular learning interventions and exposure to challenging opportunities along with our hiring strategy has helped ensure business continuity is never hampered. In fact, we even offer our employees the opportunity to internally evaluate their potential and apply for different roles that they believe might be more suited to their capabilities. Thanks to this proactive initiative, there are many internal talents who have taken bigger and challenging roles with us in the past and grown personally and professionally. Not only this, but we also provide opportunities for movement across group companies through Catalyst, a portal specifically to explore inter-company opportunities.

“The robust pipeline developed internally through regular learning interventions and exposure to challenging opportunities along with our hiring strategy has helped ensure business continuity is never hampered. In fact, we even offer our employees the opportunity to internally evaluate their potential and apply for different roles that they believe might be more suited to their capabilities.”

Will attrition now reach a fever pitch with organisations altering their employment models to accommodate flexible options to attract talent?

We have always been a very empathetic organisation. In fact, ‘Connected and Empathetic Leadership’ is one of our key competencies. While we strive to maintain momentum on progressive employee experience, consistent communication, and transparency, we do keep our ears open for the feedback and quickly act on the same. It is for this reason that our engagement score has improved from 64 percent to 84 percent over the last few years. Also, we have one of the lowest attrition rates in the industry. Encouraging employees on maintaining work-life balance needs to reflect in the way of working and not just on paper. For instance, remote working will continue to remain. So if a company wants to retain its employees and attract the best of talent, it should consider giving them the option of how to work. Whether it’s remote work, in-office employment, or a hybrid format, the choice is made jointly by the employee and the manager; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

One needs to focus on training programs for managers to better streamline and understand their role so that they can devise tactics to boost productivity. Simply listening to employees and acting on their requests may seem like a minute thing, but it goes a long way in keeping the employees happy and promoting transparency. Other steps can revolve around achieving pay equity across all similar roles, regardless of gender, or other factors.

How will culture-building get impacted?

Since the pandemic hit, employees and businesses have transformed themselves. Culture building in our country, especially in the workplace, has always relied on physical engagement. But the pandemic brought to light that it can be achieved through virtual interactions as well. As long as employees feel valued (which is an attribute that comes from a sense of belonging and can’t be measured in a physical dimension), they will continue to deliver their best. At Axis AMC, we have continued with our endeavour to make the organisation a fun place to work. The idea is to create an environment where employees enjoy the work they do and the family members feel proud of their association with us.

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Engagement and celebration continue throughout the year virtually through many small and big initiatives like live virtual family day celebration – connecting with employees’ families through Children’s Day, Father’s Day, and Mother’s Day celebrations, virtual meets to felicitate various award winners, celebrate successes of our employees, recognising stories of our employees championing our core values. We also conducted some hobby sessions for the family members, wherein family members of our employees were the trainers and facilitators for others. We had named the initiative ‘Masti Ki Pathshala’. We have always taken pride in being an employer of equal opportunity and lately, we have also accelerated our efforts to further diversity, equity, and inclusion in the organisation.

Additionally, we have revised our organisational competencies to be more relevant and contemporary. We are calling the revised competencies the ‘8 Pillars of Success’ and these are (1) Bias for Action (2) Think Big and Set High Standards (3) Connected and Empathetic Leadership (4) Learning Agility (5) Cognitive Flexibility (6) Digital Dexterity (7) Frugal Mindset (8) Resilience amid Ambiguity. All our talent management interventions are aligned to the above competencies.

While it’s difficult to measure the culture of an organisation, we do conduct an annual engagement survey and bi-annual values voices survey to assess our employees’ perceptions, which have only improved over the last few years.

How can hiring plans be altered to ensure the goals are met without endangering anything from lives to businesses? How will Axis AMC navigate it? Will Axis be looking for booster dose camps?

Employees are the backbone of any organisation/business. Apart from identifying a few roles that could be completely virtualised in our company, we are also exploring Gig resources. In recent years, we have seen many professionals taking a break in their career to do what their heart is in. They have the requisite skills and capabilities but would like to give limited time to their career. We are exploring reaching out to them to work as Freelancers with us. Compensation is completely based on measurable deliverables. It’s a perfect win-win situation.

We had arranged for Covid vaccination camps earlier for all our employees and we shall continue with our efforts to safeguard the lives of our employees, which will not only be limited to booster dose camps and will extend to whatever is necessary.

Additionally, we are also exploring Gig resources. In recent years, we have seen many professionals taking a break in their career to do what their heart is in. They have the requisite skills and capabilities but would like to give limited time to their career. We are exploring reaching out to them to work as Freelancers with us.

What is the role of technology in managing the workforce digitally? How is it at Axis AMC?

Technology has emerged as the cornerstone for every company across industries and we have taken efforts to amplify and accelerate our employees’ digital journey at Axis AMC. Implementation and adoption of the digital ecosystem not only helps us engage with customers and keep the business going but also allows employees to effectively collaborate virtually, establishing a two-way communication channel flowing across the hierarchy.

We have always believed in investing intentionally in our employee’s development and capability-building. The transition from classroom-based learning to simulation-based, virtual learning sessions has somehow managed to maintain the engagement level during the learning sessions. Self-paced learning, in particular, is a highly adaptable solution for delivering large-scale staff training and development in the face of social distancing constraints. It gives organisations complete control over when and how their employees interact with materials, allowing them to proceed at their own pace and tailor their learning experiences rather than following a set program and schedule.

We are very well-equipped to deliver the entire life-cycle virtually/digitally to all our employees. The testament to this is that we have permanently adopted the hybrid working model beyond pandemic times, we have already virtualised many of the roles, and are actively exploring tapping talents from the gig-workforce community.

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Meghna spearheads the Human Resources at Axis Mutual Fund. With over 20 years of experience in the discipline, she joined Axis Mutual Fund in 2009 and was one of the key members to conceptualise and execute the ethos and the values that the organisation currently stands for. Prior to this, Meghna was associated with ICICI Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank.

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