Creating a great workplace has always been crucial; now even more, as people are anxious about the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on their health, wellbeing, jobs and financial security.
“Most organisations are doing what they can with what they know. The problem is this is an unprecedented crisis, and there is no reference point on what is right and what is not. But there is a lot of opportunities for organisations to do a lot for their people if they listen carefully. The key is to continually check on people to understand what they need during this time,” recommends Florencio Padilla, head of people experience, Chalhoub Group.
Also read: UAE retailers rank high as best workplaces
Are you doing enough for your people?
That’s the big question!
And whenever this question comes up at conferences, during board meetings, there is still an uncomfortable silence and stir. Most organisations understand the importance of people power and the need to do ‘enough’ to keep them happy and motivated. Remember – happy employees mean satisfied customers?
The good news is several organisations are going above and beyond in this regard. In the Great Place to Work 2020 list, several UAE retailers have scored high ranks as best workplaces. Among them is luxury retailer Chalhoub Group. Padilla explains what makes Chalhoub Group a great workplace.
“We look for a certain kind of mindset when we hire people. After all, that is the starting point,” he stresses. “And what makes the Chalhoub Group a great workplace are the business owners, who have a genuinely people-first mindset.”
“Our people are incredibly passionate, dedicated and genuinely care for the organisation. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, if the need arose, our people have voluntarily taken up work that they usually would not do or even give up annual leaves and salaries. We have several ‘People Experience’ volunteers from different functions within the business, who oversee employee engagement activities. During the crisis, these engagement activities have continued, but virtually. From webinars to happy hour sessions, we are trying to do everything to ensure engagement and positivity amidst an unprecedented situation. We also conduct Pulse surveys to find out how our employees are feeling and if they need any assistance. In fact, we have our employee app – similar to Facebook – through which our people can connect and engage with our senior leaders directly,” Padilla elaborates.
Supporting overall wellbeing
Chalhoub Group acknowledges the importance of mental well-being of its people, especially amidst the current crisis. In 2019, the group launched the HOPE well-being programme, focusing on emotional agility and resilience, work-life balance and overall health and well-being.
“Mental well-being is a key focus area for us. We have partnered with mental health and well-being clinics, to offer expert advice to our employees about managing stress and anxiety, especially during the current crisis. We have been organising weekly mental well-being webinars for our employees. We have also launched a 24/7 free mental health counselling hotline for our employees and their families,” Padilla shares.
Especially during a crisis of this nature, there is tremendous uncertainty. People are worried about their health and well-being as well as financial stability.
“Since we had people working in the warehouses and fulfilling orders even during the lockdown, we not only abided by government guidelines around sanitisation and temperature check but also provided them with a hygiene toolkit including hand sanitisers, gloves, face masks as well as vitamins. We closely monitored who they were interacting with during the time spent at the warehouse while creating shifts to avoided excess crowding. We also organised transportation for them,” says Padilla.
Transforming for a new normal
In a post-COVID world, reskilling talent has become more vital than ever before. Even more crucial has been digital transformation, which could be as simple as organising virtual meetings to as complex as setting up omnichannel presence. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, several organisations have had to adapt quickly to be able to sustain.
“Over time, we have transformed a lot of our learning and development initiatives, converting the classroom into virtual training. In the current scenario, this has proved immensely beneficial as we can accommodate more people and continue virtual skill development. We have a mobile learning app called Axonify – focusing on varied topics from e-commerce to digital transformation and change management to customer engagement. It was initially accessible only to our frontline employees, which is now made available to the back-office people too. We are trying to prepare them for not only now but what we are going to face in the future as the business landscape has certainly changed,” Padilla explains.
During the lockdown, businesses have also focused on staying engaged with customers. “We have been able to do so successfully through accelerating our e-commerce activity, our Muse loyalty programme and other initiatives undertaken by our brands,” concludes Padilla.