The winner of the HR Leader of the Year award at HR Excellence Awards 2020, Singapore, Sheena Ponnappan, Chief People Officer, Everise, speaks to Priya Veeriah, on why her team's focus has and always will be to invest in people and technology.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

Everise’s HR strategy lies in our core values of being people-first, incubating innovation and celebrating diversity. Fostering the employee experience and creating a collaborative culture that promotes employee wellbeing has always been our focus. This has especially helped us thrive in the chaos that has been 2020.

I am very proud of what Everise has achieved in the four short years since we began our journey; we have created and integrated critical HR operations through several acquisitions and also created a global shared services team for talent acquisition and human resources, in the Philippines.

The digital transformation of the HR function greatly helped us when the COVID-19 pandemic struck earlier this year, allowing us to migrate over 95% of our global employees to work-at-home in a record time of two weeks. I’m especially proud of the dedication, nimbleness, resilience and strength of our people when we had to quickly transition to a work-at-home environment and adapt to new ways of working while keeping our employee experience consistent.

I also take great pride in the diverse and inclusive culture we have built at Everise, where we continue to focus on investing in our people; encouraging creativity, innovation and continuous learning.

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

Our people-first strategy is actually as simple as it sounds – it can be applied to all corporate avenues in a broad stroke and has greatly helped us in talent attraction, management and retention. Creating meaningful and trusting relationships with our employees has helped unlock their potential, thereby increasing overall business performance. We have developed a strong employment brand that is rooted in employee motivators. This is a foundation that has helped us overcome hiring challenges and also keep employee turnover at a minimum.

In my two decades of professional HR experience, the Everise leadership team is by far the most high performing group I have the honour of working with. The executive team functions as the organisational and cultural DNA for the company, leading by example. The strategic focus, collaborative approach and meaningful interactions have helped create a culture where employee engagement, talent retention and diversity goals are not only the responsibility of the HR team, but of every leader in the company.

It’s a great advantage to the organisation and its employees to have a leadership team that is supportive, resilient and empathetic in a high-pressure environment.

Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

Being the forward-thinking, progressive organisation that Everise is, we haven’t faced any challenges with executing HR initiatives, as our focus has and always will be to invest in people and technology.

Prior to the pandemic, we had already developed the talent, tools, infrastructure, IT support and security practices that allowed us to keep our employees safe and clients consistently supported. Our ability to source, recruit, train, engage and manage the performance of a large global workforce in a home setting has turned out to be a real competitive advantage.

Our AI-powered chatbot guides candidates through the onboarding process, while remote collaboration technologies enable high-touch training and real-time engagement virtually. All of this has been instrumental to promoting our core values and retaining talent. 

Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your game plan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

A measure of our employee experience is evident through our industry leading Glassdoor score of 4.6/5. Despite the lockdowns and movement control orders in many of the countries we operate in, our employees continued to provide exemplary customer experiences to our partners. Through all this, our employee retention has stayed high and our people continue to help us grow – we hire over 30% of our global workforce through employee referrals.

Over the last six months, we have supported the employment of thousands of new employees globally – a result of the business growth we witnessed from being ahead of the competition.

Our remote work solution has also provided us with opportunities to hire a more diverse workforce and offer growth opportunities to our high performing, tenured employees.

Q Given that the world of work has essentially been overturned, how do you expect the HR function to evolve one-two years down the line? In line with that, what are some personal goals you hope to achieve?

I believe many organisations are realising how important it is to shape the right culture and values, and how the employee experience is equally as important as the customer experience. People are looking to HR leaders more than ever to help guide them on how to navigate this new normal, and HR professionals are in a unique position to be role models for an ethical and responsible workplace.

Change is already here. Technology is playing a vital role and digitisation is the future of work. These trends will radically transform how we experience work and employment expectations, thereby placing HR professionals at the forefront of managing the consequences of these changes.

My personal and organisational priorities are:

  • Tackling the impact of remote work on employee experience
  • Promoting our best practices in diversity and inclusion
  • Organisational design & change management
  • Optimising our learning and career pathing
  • Continuing our digital transformation initiatives

Photo / Provided

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section

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