A visionary in the HR and business community and a passionate talent leader, Monica Watt started her journey with HR in the hospitality sector. The experience of managing large and complex projects in a service-based industry, for more than 20 years, enabled Monica to be a problem-solver, and gave her the ability to manage large groups of people.
In this beginning phase of her career, the opportunity to help people learn and unleash their potential inspired Monica to pursue HR. Then as she moved ahead, the various nuances of HR and the ability to create a business impact with people-centric decisions made her stay.
Today, she continues to make new revolutions in people and work practices, in her role as ELMO Software’s Group Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO).
Monica is passionate about talent, organisational development, digital HR, technology, engagement, and culture. She is focusing on, ‘Managing people, systems, and technology and putting them together to create magic for the business to be successful.’
In a recent interview with us, Monica talks about flexibility as an in-demand benefit which companies must adapt to implement hybrid work models successfully. She also discusses the evolving role of HR in the now and future of work and shares insights on creating a winning talent strategy.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Given the current scenario, how do you see the role of HR evolving?
HR leaders need to see the change and proactively take action to prepare for it. We need to lead this ‘change culture’, and not expect the business to take care. Our job is actually to say, we identify the change, both business- and people-centric.
This requires us HR leaders to move away from our comfort zone and also push our colleagues to do the same.
We've got to take our organisations, our people to the very edge of their level of comfort so that they can fly into the clouds, into the precipice.
And the greatest way that we can do that right now is with the HR mindset. We've got that ability using technology to boost our productivity. But, let's be very clear. Let's look at using technology the right way. But let's also be agile, let's prepare for change by reflecting and using technology to gather data and identify these changing trends. For instance, we ran an employee sentiment survey recently, in Australia and New Zealand, that showed 68% of Australians believe that greater technology will help them in their jobs. And, this percentage had increased from the previous quarter. Especially in a distributed remote work environment we're going to have to turn to technology to reduce the burden. The idea is not to replace humans, it's there to augment humans.
I'm very blessed, I work for a HR Payroll Expense Management Company. I don't have to find the technology and I have an integrated convergence solution.
As organisations invest in new technologies to improve connectivity for the hybrid work model, what are some things they should keep in mind before investing?
I really encourage businesses to not get technology just for technology's sake. Technology is here to enable human connection. Ultimately, we are looking at creating that positive employee experience.
Performance and productivity will take care of itself, if you have the right solutions, policies, and culture in place. Even in times of crisis, when the workforce is widely dispersed, and working from different locations, technology has the ability to keep us connected and ensure business continuity. But there are different challenges that we have to overcome. For example, information overload.
When we're looking at employee experience, our responsibility as people leaders is to make sure we're not drowning our employees with too much information. We can't leave things out to create a vacuum for stories to be created. But we've got to give them just enough details or help them to access where they can get that information. Yes it is important to be transparent but we should also know when to switch on and off.
We really need to be tech-driven and people-centric and create the experience, because if not, we're gonna have to deal with another talent crisis.
How do you advise the HR leaders to create a balance between ensuring a smooth HR tech adoption and driving excellent employee experience?
We don’t want to add more burden to the emotional and environmental burden which our people are already going through.
People leaders need to understand that we are not working from home. We are working from home during a crisis. They are trying to do their best with so much going on both at work and home. For instance, in some cases, with the schools still shut down, parents are also home schooling.
Our responsibility as HR leaders is to bring empathy to the table.
Talent leaders need to make sure that employees have got all the systems and processes in place, and have the environment to carry their tasks and responsibilities, at their own pace. Also, create opportunities for them to unwind and connect with their colleagues, even in a virtual setup.
For example, we've moved morning meditation to virtual. We moved Friday afternoon social to virtual, and we also have Innovation Day. Recently, my team has just finished a sprint on the capability framework that we're building.
There are certain moments that matter and small efforts that go a long way in creating this experience for employees, where they can truly thrive. For talent leaders, hence, it also involves educating leaders who may not be aware of the remote ways of working. Having technology in place doesn’t mean you can demand a person to be available and respond to you anytime. We must respect each other’s personal space and boundaries.
In fact, what can help here is connecting with people on a personal level. Building social connections right now is very important.
Recent reports suggest: “With flexibility now an in-demand benefit, companies must adapt to hybrid work models or risk losing their competitive edge when attracting and retaining top talent.” How can leaders respond to this rising demand for flexibility?
Flexibility is more than remote work. Flexibility is about how everyone can have different approaches to work, career, and lives. Business and talent leaders need to create a safe environment for people to be able to share their thoughts and ideas with them.
When you give that opportunity to people to share their own unique personal challenges, which a generic policy might not suffice, you truly become a flexible workplace.
A one-size-fits-all approach will definitely not work. As the famous quote says, we're in the same storm, but not in the same boat.
As organisations look to codify the hybrid model, how can they begin the journey? What are some essentials they need to focus on right from the beginning?
Remember, there has to be an appetite for change. We have some companies who already have some systems in place and hence, have a headstart in this transition journey. Then there are others who are experimenting on the go. Then a lot of, as we see any change emerge, we have an emotional human reaction, where we tend to fall back to our old ways of working.
This is where HR leaders' roles become critical to help CXOs and other leaders understand the need to change, the impact on people and performance, its implications on business, and long-term success of the organisation. In the ongoing talent crisis, it is a need rather than a choice for businesses to innovate and adapt work models which talent is comfortable with.
In the global environment that we have at the moment, access to talent is really hard. Our industry benchmark survey that we ran last year highlighted the number one priority was to upskill and reskill people to sustain and scale into the future. So it is crucial that companies acknowledge and address these new priorities for talent. Allow them the flexibility.
I can't create 6,000 discrete pathways or journeys for all employees, but I can create 30 and I can create some of those that you can work with.
So with the help of tech and personal interactions, identify the cohorts and see how you can co-create more personalised experiences for them.