HR has a bad rap for ‘doing only one job in the year’ – that is, ‘organising Rangoli competitions’ during Diwali. This year, with the physical office environment out of the picture, not to mention the gloom and doom of 2020, HR teams have gone the extra mile to make sure the workforce feels a sense of belongingness, especially now that the company they work for is more or less intangible.
“Earlier, they had access to libraries where they could read books in braille. Some of our employees volunteered to record audiobooks for them.”
A family affair
Instead of the lack of a physical space proving to be a limitation, it turned into an opportunity for many organisations to involve the families of their employees in their festivities. “We realised that even though physical space is not available, we can do a lot of work with families now,” says Ritu Agast, director – HR, Pearson India. Connecting virtually proved a boon in particular for companies with workforces spread across the country.
“We thought a virtual circus would be a good event for our employees and their families, especially kids. The idea was also to be able to support the circus community.”
“The entire focus of our employee-engagement thinking shifted. We realised the family could be used as a force to nurture the mental wellbeing of our employees,” explains Agast. Pearson organised several family-oriented entertainment and engagement activities that included stand-up comedy, where employees and their families turned into performers. Pictures and videos were shared, the best of which received awards.
“We are in their spaces, be it parents or spouses. Therefore, we felt it was time to thank them for all the adjustments they may have made to help our people maintain their professional commitments.”
“Rather than thinking about what we cannot do, we focused on what we can do and took it as an opportunity to engage with families,” informs Neeru Mehta, VP – people development & learning, head – HR, GlobalLogic India. The Company turned its festivities into a week-long campaign called ‘GlobalLogic Wali Diwali’, including virtual cooking sessions with celebrity chefs, competitions of various shapes and sizes to engage kids, and entertainment hosted by celebrity DJs and choreographers.
Three teams — HR, communications and the company’s in-house Employee Activity Club — came together to make the festive experience possible. “We wanted to do something that made our employees feel that they’re still connected with us,” says Mehta. Virtual meetings at GlobalLogic India were sporting Diwali-themed backgrounds too. “We’ve tried to give a Diwali touch to everything. We wanted to virtually create the look-and-feel of how our office would typically be during this time of the year,” adds Mehta.
“People were really taken by surprise that we could give them such a unique Diwali experience. It created a huge emotional connect.”
With work-from-home being the new reality, families have passively become a part of the organisation, often making cameo appearances in virtual meetings. TresVista took it as an opportunity to thank families. “We are in their spaces, be it parents or spouses. Therefore, we felt it was time to thank them for all the adjustments they may have made to help our people maintain their professional commitments,” explains Sudeep Mishra, co-founder and MD, TresVista. The financial services company sent out personalised gift hampers, which they called ‘Happiness Packages’. These have been “couriered to every single employee, no matter where they are,” shares Mishra.
“They feel like they’ve participated in something, which is closer to them and as a company we get to know who they are, beyond work.”
At DCM Shriram, engaging families has been a long-standing tradition, which simply donned a virtual avatar this year. Pre-COVID, large auditoriums and grounds were booked to host the Company’s flagship annual events. “This year, we didn’t want people to feel like we’re not doing anything,” says Sushil Baveja, executive director – HR, DCM Shriram, “so, we thought we can still use technology to create some new experiences.”
The Company’s annual Diwali Mela turned into a week-long virtual affair. “People were really taken by surprise that we could give them such a unique Diwali experience. It created a huge emotional connect,” informs Baveja. Certain times of the day were set aside for activities that engaged all members of the family, with something new each day from tambola and quizzes to awards for the best dress and home decor.
“We wanted to virtually create the look-and-feel of how our office would typically be during this time of the year.”
Some organisations took the festive season as an opportunity to give back to the community. JLL employees brought cheer to underprivileged children who are visually impaired. “Earlier, they had access to libraries where they could read books in braille. Some of our employees volunteered to record audiobooks for them,” says Tanvi Choksi, head – HR, JLL. “The initiative was well received by the workforce,” she informs. “They were missing the opportunity to make that difference physically, so this was an interesting variation of how they could still make that community impact, virtually,” adds Choksi.
Tata Realty is optimising the festive season by supporting the circus community. “The circus community has been impacted drastically, so Rambo Circus has partnered with BookMyShow to host a virtual circus,” informs Reena Wahi, SVP, head-HR, business excellence & CSR, Tata Realty & Infrastructure. “We thought it will be a good event for our employees and their families too, especially kids. The idea was also to be able to support the community.”
“The entire focus of our employee-engagement thinking shifted. We realised the family could be used as a force to nurture the mental wellbeing of our employees.”
Personalised for teams
At CredAble, the festive season’s engagement activities were personalised for the teams. “We have different sects of people, and not all of them can be engaged the same way,” says Debashree Lad, chief people officer, CredAble. Personalising engagement to teams and their personalities resulted in a better sense of belongingness, according to Lad, “They feel like they’ve participated in something, which is closer to them and as a company we get to know who they are, beyond work.”
The fintech startup encouraged its product and engineering teams to forget about work for a day and hosted a 12-hour long Hackathon, letting them do what they love best. Comparing it to a 20-20 cricket match, Lad illustrates, “Project timelines are usually very long, so this gave them an opportunity to create something new, and the engagement was very good.”