Article: COVID-19 is changing the way we work: PropertyGuru Group’s CPO


COVID-19 is changing the way we work: PropertyGuru Group’s CPO

As businesses move forward, there will be a fundamental change to the way we work and as leaders we must ensure our mindset is open to these changes as a result, says Genevieve Godwin, Chief People Officer, PropertyGuru Group, in an interaction with People Matters.
COVID-19 is changing the way we work: PropertyGuru Group’s CPO

Genevieve has nearly two decades of international experience in human resources across a diverse set of industries including technology, advertising and communications. At PropertyGuru, Genevieve leads the human resource function for over 1200 employees across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

She provides HR leadership to the group with a focus on building strong employer branding including talent strategy as well as organizational capabilities for continued business growth. Leading the HR team across the region, she collaborates with business leaders to further develop and implement strategies that inspire employees toward pursing their goals.

Prior to PropertyGuru, Genevieve was the Head of Human Resources for Telenor’s Digital Businesses across Asia Pacific, Europe, and the U.S.  

Here are the excerpts of the interview.

What are you most concerned about as a leader as you plan to bring employees back to the office?

The health and well-being of our Gurus has been our greatest concern throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This continues to be our biggest priority in our return to work strategy. 

How do you see the new workplace post-pandemic? How is this going to be different and how are we going to adapt to it?

We have definitely seen a shift in the perception of work and remote working as it stands today. There has been a clear move away from traditional thinking where employees must be in the office between certain times, towards one which is ready to embrace flexible working.  

As businesses move forward, there will be a fundamental change to the way we work and as leaders we must ensure our mindset is open to these changes as a result. Flexible working is more than just working from home and this is a great opportunity for employers to embrace the elements of flexible working that both meet the needs of their business and their employees. If they don’t, they run the risk of not being able to attract and retain key talent. 

HR seems at the forefront of many challenges as organizations plan to reopen. What are the top pain points that HR is likely to face as they gear up to reboot their plans post COVID-19? 

COVID-19 is an exceptional event and one where HR professionals have had to move quickly to ensure the safety of their teams. As we return to a new normal, HR will face challenges through the next three phases:

a. Continuation of Restrictions:

Ensuring your organization has clear regular engagement communications and programs, as well as moving face to face interactions online and the technology to support.

b. Post Lockdown Easing of Restrictions:

These challenges can change by the day, however, HR will need to ensure they manage the desire to get back to the workplace with the employees’ health and well-being, as well as the implementation of safe workplace measures as per government guidelines. In markets where the guidelines are unclear, HR needs to advise their organization on best practices which is consistent for all employees. Lastly, clear communications and policies underpin these challenges.

c. The New Normal

HR will be challenged with defining the new normal and aligning the business needs and structure with employee needs and flexible working. Businesses need to understand and define specifically what needs to change in this period, educate employees and managers and have clear policies in place to support. 

How can organizations scale the productivity that can come with new ways of working specifically the new combination of virtual and onsite work?

Flexible working is not a new philosophy and it has been successful in many companies and countries. For SEA we have seen through COVID-19 that employers can successfully have employees working remotely and still have strong productivity. 

However, businesses also have to choose the right type of flexible working that aligns the requirements of both business and people. To do this, businesses should cover the following four pillars.

  • People – Understanding the needs of your employees and their roles
  • Perception – How is Flexible working perceived across your business and what gaps are there in its successful implementation
  • Policy – What are the guidelines we need to have in place for a successful implementation and longevity in the program
  • Process – How will we implement and what support and education do we need to give to our employees and leaders

Through this approach, businesses will have the right information to ensure their business is not disrupted and the continuation of strong production and retention of their employees.

Now that the nine-to-five is no more suited to the demands of a modern workforce, how should organizations change their policies and procedures to reflect these shifts and make work-life blend part of the company culture?

Unfortunately, this is not a new challenge. In the past 10 to 20 years with the development of better technology to keep employees even more connected to work, the usual 9-5 has disappeared and employees have been working longer hours than previous generations. 

COVID-19 has given organizations the opportunity to create programs and policies to ensure their way of working is renewed and defined. Companies should ensure they have clear policies in place to implement flexible working. This should include guidelines for both employee and manager to be able to have open communication channels on the new ways of working. 

How should employers change the way they hire and reskill post the COVID-19?

Overall companies should review their current organizational structure and ensure their programs meet the needs of the business and the workforce. This may mean that a portion of the workforce is remote working either part or full time. Once a company understands how their roles will be structure going forward, then they can ensure they have the right skills in the business and hire the right talent to meet those demands. 

Can you throw some light on how can organizations continue to operate effectively if employees have to work remotely for a prolonged period of time?

To continue to operate effectively whilst having your team working remotely, organizations need to ensure their employees continue to stay engaged with the business. Engagement in this period will be the biggest impact on productivity and strong engagement during this time will also ensure the health and well-being of employees. 

At PropertyGuru our approach was tied to our philosophy that the health and well-being of our Gurus is the priority. This philosophy underpinned the communications, the policies, and the processes we implemented during the crisis. Once we had moved all our employees to full time remote working our team implemented key engagement programs, learning paths and communications to connect with our employees. 

Secondly, our HR team ensured that we took (previously face-to-face) interactions virtual, including our onboarding program and learning and development programs.  

How do you see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world of work five years down the line?

The future of work is now open for change due to COVID-19 and companies should be prepared for this. Flexible working will become an expectation, not just a nice to have, from employees. More roles will be able to be done from remote locations and employers may find there are less needs for a physical office and make do with smaller spaces or co-working spaces instead. 

However, organizations must ensure the social interactions at work are not lost between employees. The relationships that you make at work are key to business success and we need to ensure these skills are still a priority, even in a virtual world. 


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Topics: C-Suite, #COVID-19, #TheNewNormal

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