How HPE India tackled the challenges of going hybrid

Adopting a hybrid work model is easier said than done, but HPE managed to overcome them and how!

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has adopted a hybrid work model for its 60,000+ employees, globally. ‘Old news’ you may say, for HRKatha had earlier reported of the ‘Edge-to-Work’ programme at HPE India, talking about how the technology firm had redesigned its physical office spaces to suit the dynamics of a hybrid work culture.

While the design of the offices allows maximum flexibility to employees — with its open spaces, corners and hubs for collaborations, socialising and team meetings —it also has work stations for people who will be required to come to the office every day. Yes, the changes it underwent are many.

The changes

The new working model of HPE India has almost 85 per cent of the workforce either working in a hybrid or a completely remote model. The remaining 15 per cent is required to come to the office every day. This arrangement has been decided as per the role of each employee and the extent of flexibility it allows.

Apart from changes in the design of the workspaces at HPE India, many HR processes have also been tweaked or amended as per the new working model. “The whole talent ecosystem at HPE has seen a change with many processes having gone digital or virtual,” reveals Sailesh Menezes, CHRO, HPE India.

Hiring– The first process that has undergone a major change at HPE is hiring. From the point when a candidate applies to the time the person is hired, all processes have been made digital or virtual at HPE. The Company has adopted video tools for hiring employees virtually. The induction or onboarding process has also been kept flexible for employees. It can be done virtually or physically, as per needs or requirements.

“For us, an office is a place where employee experiences are created and we want to ensure that all employees, whether in office or working remotely, get the same employee experience in every activity”

Sailesh Menezes, CHRO, HPE India

Depending on the comfort or need of the hiring manager, physical interviews can also be conducted in the office. Some managers may want to meet the candidate in person before making a final decision. Menezes assures that there is no compulsion to conduct interviews virtually or physically. A lot of flexibility is given to the candidate and the employee.

“Every process in the company has been digitised, right from the point an employee enters to the point he/she exits,” shares Menezes.

Performance evaluation – On moving to a hybrid work model, employees were uncertain about how they would be evaluated, especially the ones who were working remotely and feared falling prey to unconscious bias. As per Menezes, HPE already moved away from the rating-scale system to evaluate performances three years ago.

Managers simply had to tweak their own mindset a bit when it came to evaluating people. Now, managers only need to follow an outcome-based approach or process, where the focus is on the end product or outcome of the employees’ work and not the number of hours they have put in, irrespective of whether they are working remotely or in office.

Wellness– Employee wellbeing or assistance tools at HPE are also digital. Employees are able to participate in community activities virtually, including taking mentoring sessions with underprivileged students in the community.

HPE already has its employee-assistance programmes, where employees can seek help from professionals in case of a mental-health problem. In fact, addressing mental health can become a big challenge in a remote working environment where one cannot really feel or see how the employee is behaving, which helps people to understand if someone is going through any stress.

“We encourage managers to regularly engage with all their team members, especially the ones who are working remotely,” reveals Menezes.

Interestingly, according to Menezes, there has been a 400 per cent increase in the usage of employee-assistance programme at HPE India post the pandemic. “Clearly, employees do not feel any stigma attached to this subject anymore,” observes Menezes.

When an organisation moves to a hybrid model, it is a big change, and comes with its challenges.

The challenges

Mindset: The first major challenge for HPE, as Menezes shares, was the mindset of employees, managers and leaders. “The hybrid model is very new for the India workforce. Leaders and employees will have to accept and leverage this model, as many would have doubts and uncertainties with respect to the new model,” admits Menezes. Such challenges are being addressed at HPE through continuous messaging and communication with employees.

Bias: Another challenge is that of proximity bias, where remote workers may feel isolated or ignored when compared with employees who are regularly coming to the office. To address this, HPE India has coached and trained its leaders to manage remote-working teams.

Managers can organise ‘no agenda meets’ or ‘happy hours,’ as HPE calls them, where the agenda is to just bond with all team members working in office or remotely. “No work-related discussions happen at these sessions,” informs Menezes. These engagements take place once a week at HPE India. Moreover, the company also has an ‘Edge Council Committee’ which organises connectivity events, virtual engagement and volunteering, cultural branding and career development and training programmes for employees who are working remotely or in a hybrid model.

Not only have all the managers been trained, but they have been equipped with the required collaboration tools to stay connected with the employees.

The new model seems to be working well for HPE, going by the encouraging results shared by Menezes. The recent engagement score stood at 89 per cent for the India workforce, one of the highest amongst all other regions.

Going forward, hybrid is going to be the future believes HPE India. “For us, an office is a place where employee experiences are created and we want to ensure that all employees, whether in office or working remotely, get the same employee experience in every activity,” asserts Menezes.

He goes on to reveal that in future, any programme or initiative related to employees will be rolled out in a hybrid way, which ensures inclusion of every employee.

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