Future of workplace: How are businesses integrating innovation and employee centricity to create better employee experiences

Sunil is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of UNIDEL.He is passionate about building tech businesses that solve real world problems and disrupt the status quo.
He is a member of the Young Presidents Organization and is keen on nurturing entrepreneurial talent. Sunil holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering & Management of Technology from Vanderbilt University, USA

Employee engagement affects all business metrics, including customer satisfaction, productivity, innovation, and revenue growth. Please explain how companies are combining innovation & employee centricity to improve employee experiences.

One of the biggest requirements in a rapidly evolving digital economy is the need for businesses to constantly innovate. Fostering this innovative mindset among employees, to enable them to perform more complex work, is critical to success.

Employee priorities have also evolved and are no longer confined to the traditional wants of 'good culture', 'monetary rewards', and 'training and development'. Today's employees view each workplace interaction as an integrated experience that affects their professional and personal lives. Organisations are following suit, introducing programs and policies to address employees’ overall physical, emotional, professional, and financial well-being. Organisations are becoming more flexible, hybrid policies are replacing traditional work approaches, and a digitally enhanced work setup is becoming the new normal. And since people cannot be expected to innovate in less-than-ideal working environments, employers have begun to explore more creative workspaces where the hierarchies are flat, and state-of-the-art facilities encourage increasingly innovative thinking in state-of-the-art people.

Companies big and small must divide and rule and recognise that one size doesn’t fit all. Leaders must engage different age groups in a way that is meaningful to the new age employee. Programs need to get customised and deployed at scale. For example, employees in their 20s could care more about social engagement at work (unrelated to work) and training. Whereas employees in their 30s could care more about learning and career growth but in a socially responsible way. People in their 40s need flexibility to balance their careers while bringing up a young family. So, in addition to designing job descriptions, related roles and HR policies for a highly dynamic and rapidly evolving market, companies must design programs that engage their workforce in more customised ways.

As technology advances, more businesses are allowing for remote or flexible working. What role does technology play in maintaining the employee-centric strategy?

The seismic shift towards a flexible work-life has been supported by an explosion of digital and mobile tools that have helped organisations design and deliver holistic employee strategies. Easily available communication tools support collaborative team-centric work and create platforms for performance management and goal setting. Engagement and feedback apps have replaced the traditional annual engagement surveys, and given the focus on employee well-being, applications to boost wellness, fitness, and learning and development are being increasingly adopted by organisations.

At UNIDEL, our extensive expertise in technology-led domains is the catalyst for integrating tech into employee experiences. When working from home became the new normal during the pandemic, we deployed diverse solutions to help our people, right from basic WiFi technology to advanced tools that ensure data security, productivity, and employee wellness. We also leveraged multiple cloud-based platforms and applications to track employee workflow and ensure people thrived and innovated without being overwhelmed. But the secret sauce of organisational effectiveness lies in blending the digital world with the physical. Companies have learned that to stay relevant they must innovate and to do that their teams must collaborate effectively. Companies are finding that transactional work can be handled from home around 2 days a week while more unstructured and collaborative work across multi-function teams is best handled by meeting face to face around 3 days a week.

It is crucial for businesses to improve the employee experience. Please walk us through the most recent innovations/upgrades that are improving the employee experience.

The ubiquity of technology might have changed the way we work, but one tenet has remained constant - employees are the backbone of any organisation. They expect not only better-designed work experiences but also the adoption of best-in-class workplace trends. With the global digital transformation spending forecast to reach $2.8 trillion by 2025, according to a Statista report, we are on the cusp of a transformative employment experience.

The change has already begun. Some companies look to their employees themselves for inspiration. They collect employee feedback and ideas for new approaches to performance management, workplace design, benefits, and even rewards. Yet others utilise the world’s obsession with their mobile devices to put every element of the employee experience, from rewards, to development, to projects, onto mobile apps, which improves and simplifies life at work. UNIDEL, which embraces a mantra of constant innovation, fosters a culture of innovation with futuristic workplaces, a non-hierarchical approach to pitching ideas, and rewards for employees demonstrating habits and behaviors that embody its values – IDEA – Innovation, Dependability, Excellence, Agility. We embraced hybrid working before anyone else, gave every employee the freedom to fail and try again, and haven't tied people down to traditional job descriptions. Employees thus get a tech-enabled sandbox to evolve and thrive at UNIDEL.

The pandemic emphasises the importance of a more dynamic talent and work model. Tell us how HR leaders are assisting the work culture in developing the organisation's future.

HR leaders’ responsibilities have evolved beyond simple payroll and onboarding-related functions, and they rely on the new marketplace of productivity tools, wellness and fitness apps, and integrated employee feedback tools to assist them. Through new digital tools and technologies, HR departments are now focused on understanding, measuring, and improving the complete employee experience.

To ensure constant upskilling, a special HR policy encourages employees to focus on self-development with annual 'learning and development' leaves. The company also partly sponsors various learning courses in the interest of developing the employees', and thus the organisation's, future.

How are companies embracing change and fostering employee connectivity by reimagining the workplace and its purpose in the future of work?

As companies strive to attract and retain good talent, they are focusing on building workplaces and policies that encourage collaboration and flexibility. There are no set rules and no wrong answers. Every organisation has a unique formula for reimagining its workspace that dictates its success, and it’s the same for UNIDEL.

Over 50 years of UNIDEL's presence in the technology industry, we have built multiple solutions, products, and services that have helped customers directly impact employee engagement levels in the workplace. We ourselves, however, worked out of normal offices that did not have anything terribly innovative to recommend them, unlike the services we offered. We used our decades-long experience as inspiration to design our own innovative space, an exercise that took almost six months to complete. When we conceptualised the UNIDEL Innovation Center (UIC), we brought the same innovative spirit that helped us design and build world-class innovative solutions into the design for our own facility. The UIC is emblematic of UNIDEL itself: a home for builders of disruptive technologies, a hub to enable vibrant customer communities, and an environment to build business models that connect the dots of emerging markets, challenge conventional thinking, and generate phenomenal growth. The facility is designed to resonate with every employee’s innovative spirit and offers a world-class experience with futuristic amenities. The interiors have been designed keeping in mind the employees' mindset as they embrace a hybrid world of work and features a balanced blend of collaborative and employee-friendly amenities. This facility will enable UNIDEL's vital work to reach new heights, where innovations will come alive and where exceptional careers will take flight.