Navigating through a global shift towards remote working, several organisations have embraced innovative models to stay ahead, and Synchrony is a notable name leading this change. A quick glance online reveals the growing emphasis on hybrid and remote working models across industries, with giants like Twitter and Shopify also embracing this flexible approach to harness its numerous benefits.
Kameswari Gangadharabhatla, VP, HR – Asia Diversity & Recruitment COE Leader at Synchrony, unveils the intricacies and impacts of their 100% work-from-anywhere model in conversation with All Things Talent. Excerpts from our interview:
Beyond the response to the pandemic, what were the motivating factors behind Synchrony’s decision to adopt a 100% work-from-home/anywhere model, while still allowing employees the choice to work from the office?
Synchrony has embraced a fully flexible work model, aligning with our dynamic work culture and aiming to strike a harmonious balance between professional commitments and personal well-being for our employees. This initiative is designed not only to retain our diverse and talented workforce but also to attract new talent from various regions.
The implementation of this flexible approach was motivated by several key factors:
- Employee Satisfaction and Retention: The availability of flexible working options has been instrumental in enhancing employee morale and improving retention rates at Synchrony.
- Productivity and Efficiency: A segment of our workforce has reported experiencing heightened productivity and efficiency while working remotely.
- Talent Attraction: The ability to work remotely has expanded our reach, allowing us to attract skilled professionals from a variety of locations.
- Environmental Consideration: The reduction in daily commuting aligns with our commitment to sustainability, contributing to a decreased carbon footprint.
The adoption of total work-from-home flexibility is a universal policy, influencing all Synchrony offices across the globe. This strategy is designed to cultivate a uniform and adaptable working culture throughout our diverse international locations, guaranteeing that every employee, regardless of geography, can reap the benefits of this flexible working model.
Can you share insights on the evolution of employee sentiments and perspectives over the past few years in light of this continuity?
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Synchrony had always prioritised leveraging benefits for our employees. This focus became even more salient as the pandemic unfolded and we transitioned to a 100% work-from-home model.
To meet the unique demands of the time, we initiated a series of measures such as family vaccinations, flu shots, and interactive “Ask Us Anything” sessions to foster open communication and address the concerns of our employees. A robust support system was established, offering round-the-clock assistance, medical aid, and ambulance services, alongside wellness sessions to raise awareness about COVID-19 and its impacts. Financial aid was also provided through a COVID-specific Emergency Employee Assistance Fund, and comprehensive medical coverage was extended for COVID-19 treatment for both employees and their dependents.
In the post-pandemic phase, the emphasis on employee well-being and flexibility remains unwavering. We continue to facilitate various wellness sessions and have implemented Annual Health Checkups to encourage proactive health management. Additionally, we introduced Synchrony Assist, a platform offering consultations and resources, and integrated Mental Health reimbursement into our Group Medical Insurance Plan Cover. The inception of the Employee Balance Program and the Sabbatical Program further exemplifies our commitment to providing flexibility, such as reduced work schedules and designated time off, thereby nurturing a balanced and supportive work environment.
By adopting a model that supports a distributed workforce, we have been able to tap into an extensive talent pool spread across India. This strategic approach to hiring has seen a geographical diversification in our recruitment, with 31% of our hires stemming from the Central region, and a significant 69% coming from various other regions
Could you elaborate on the difficulties encountered in establishing this new workflow?
One of the most significant challenges we navigated at Synchrony was facilitating a shift in mindset. Moving to a 100% remote work environment marked a departure from the traditional familiarity of in-person collaboration. We responded by enhancing our virtual interactions, fostering a culture of trust and accountability, and promoting home office etiquette.
The process of adapting from face-to-face to virtual interaction was not without its difficulties, requiring around seven months for employees to acclimate to the revised productivity norms within this diversified work setting. However, the flexibility offered has led to a reduction in unscheduled or lost work hours, marking a notable improvement from the past.
Addressing our employees’ mental well-being has been paramount. We’ve fostered an environment encouraging open discussions around mental wellness and established a robust support system. Moreover, in response to potential security issues arising from this new work format, we have revisited and updated our data security policies and guidelines to safeguard against any concerns.
In what ways have advancements in HR technology or other new-age technologies contributed to supporting this remote working model?
At Synchrony, leveraging new-age technologies is integral to our strategy for enhancing the employee experience. We have implemented digital onboarding processes and collaboration tools specifically designed for remote work, which facilitate effective communication across geographically dispersed teams.
Equally important is our commitment to fostering continuous learning and development. We prioritise access to e-learning platforms, enabling our employees to acquire new skills and progress within the organisation. Additionally, our employee portals serve as a centralised source for essential information, including benefits, payroll details, and opportunities for career advancement, thereby fostering a supportive and growth-oriented work environment.
Facilitating a distributed workforce necessitates substantial investment. Can you specify the areas where Synchrony primarily directed its resources to ensure the effectiveness of this work format?
For Synchrony, the key to successfully managing a distributed workforce has been our unwavering commitment to empowering our employees. We have extended support by distributing Chromebooks and Laptops, considering these not as mere expenses, but as valuable investments in our workforce. Such initiatives have allowed us to shift from a competitive approach to one that centres on the genuine well-being and benefit of our employees.
In what ways has the adoption of this work model facilitated Synchrony in reaching its business objectives?
The incorporation of this work model has been instrumental in driving Synchrony towards the attainment of its business objectives. By adopting a model that supports a distributed workforce, we have been able to tap into an extensive talent pool spread across India. This strategic approach to hiring has seen a geographical diversification in our recruitment, with 31% of our hires stemming from the Central region, and a significant 69% coming from various other regions.
Has this flexibility played a role in reducing the candidate dropout ratio and attrition, and conversely, in increasing retention? Could you provide some specific figures to illustrate this impact?
Indeed, the flexibility ingrained in our work model has markedly influenced the reduction of both candidate dropout ratio and attrition, while simultaneously boosting retention. This positive impact is evidenced by the enthusiastic participation of 94% of our employees in the Great Place to Work (GPTW) survey. Our unified vision at Synchrony goes beyond merely offering compensation and benefits; it emphasises individual growth for our team members. The introduction of 100% work-from-home flexibility has played a pivotal role, resulting in a 36% decrease in candidate dropout ratios from 2021 to 2022, and a noteworthy 17% reduction in attrition rates from July 2022 to July 2023. These figures underscore our steadfast commitment to fostering positive developments in both recruitment and retention.
About the expert: With 29 years in the field, Kameswari Gangadharabhatla, Vice President, HR – Asia Diversity & Recruitment COE Leader at Synchrony, has held leadership roles at renowned firms such as GE Capital and MarketTools, focusing on strategic HR initiatives and inclusivity.