Employees of IBS Software were in for a surprise when they met on Microsoft Teams Live on June 18. ‘LiveWire’, a global music event featuring 16 musicians from the company was on and company CEO, Anand Krishnan, joined them from London, strumming his guitar and singing Ben E King’s ‘Stand by me’. “At LiveWire there were songs in English, Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil, with musicians of IBS joining from Sydney, Bengaluru, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Dubai, London, Memphis, Virginia, and Sao Paulo,” says Bhavana Nair, head (Internal Communications and Branding), IBS.
As work from home (WFH) became the new normal, many firms began initiatives to engage and connect with employees and their families. In addition to webinars on health and wellness, companies have been conducting Zumba and yoga challenges and sessions, virtual coffee and tea time breaks, talent shows, music events, online contests and games, watch parties, hackathons, and digital skill development sessions on multiple virtual platforms.
Music is what connected the employees of Finastra as the company brought together 20 musicians from over 10 countries to form a virtual music band. Social media challenges were a hit on the company’s Yammer channel, which included hairstyle experiments and a rainbow cake baking contest for PRIDE month. Sunil Plavians, site lead, Finastra Trivandrum, says, “Employee engagement is crucial for retaining and attracting talent and this motivates our people to go beyond work. During the lockdown, the technology team of the firm came up with an app to promote social distancing and assisting in locating essential services that won the Kerala CyberDome Hackathon.”
UST Global too is conducting a series of activities spread across its offices in India and in Malayasia, the UK and Philippines. While the Thiruvananthapuram centre had Google Labyrinth, a digital treasure hunt, tambola was organised by the Hyderabad office and a mobile photography contest on ‘Caring moments that you notice around’ was open for employees in the company’s Kochi office. In addition, Bengaluru centre has an ongoing initiative on celebrating stories of unsung heroes during the outbreak of COVID-19 and the UK office is running ‘Community Champions of UST’ in which stories of UST employees lending a helping hand during the pandemic are collected and published. Kavita Kurup, global head (Talent and Organisational Transformation), points out that the company has had programmes anchored around upgrading technical skills of the employees. “We redesigned our work-from-home policy under which managers were trained to lead their teams virtually. We’ve set up a COVID-19 helpline. Over 25,000 staff across the globe are connected also by our daily newsletter, News @ Noon,” she states.
While SunTec has ‘Happy [email protected]’ on Saturdays where employees and their family members showcase their skills in dance, music, magic, cooking… over Zoom sessions, GES India has been holding ‘Chai time with Manager’, where 15 senior managers catch up with their teams over tea once every week where they discuss everything except work! “We’ve also had an online photography contest on unique and interesting moments of WFH and a video competition on the topic, ‘WFH is interesting’,” says Rani Vinod, head, employee engagement and business partnering, SunTec.
Team-wise initiatives are the rage in some companies. As in the case of Flytxt, where the HR team has a quiz session on all working days. “It begins on Skype at sharp 12.45 pm. The team members take turns to be the quiz master. On some days we have ‘Aswamedham’, where you guess a personality through a bunch of questions. These sessions keep us connected and it doesn’t feel like we haven’t met each other for the last three months,” says Suchithra Radha, assistant manager, HR, Flytxt.
Talking about the initiatives at Allianz, Sonja Kiefer, head (HR & Change), Allianz Technology/ Services, India observes that it was important to run wholesome initiatives that not only engages colleagues but also their families as they were all at home. So there was ‘Book Read’ session for employees’ kids and an art contest for the kids. Managers and colleagues turned into storytellers and actors, enacting and reading out stories for kids while the parents watched or were at work.
Again, it was for children and parents that IBS started Parent Junction, a channel for employees to share tips on parenting. The weekly ‘Take a Breath’ initiative in IBS has ‘Deskercises’, memory games, identifying characters and personalities by listening to their voice or dialogues etc. “The employees were also encouraged to make doodles and share the videos or photos,” says Deepa Rahul Easwar, assistant manager, HR. The company also launched Luan Dui (means ‘huddle’ in Chinese), an internal social collaboration channel, a platform for employees to interact by posting pictures, videos, ideas, WFH tips and the like.
All these activities help in building relations, collaborations and, above all, teams feel being together, says Gautam Shankar, vice president – operations (India and Japan), GES India.
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