Marketing communications specialist Omnicom Media Group (OMG) Singapore won the gold award for Best Remote Management Strategy at the Employee Experience Awards 2022, Singapore.
We interview Sabrina Ng, Director, People Operations & Talent (SG & MY), Omnicom Media Group Singapore (pictured above) to find out how the media agency overcame initial challenges and found ways to connect with people through virtual means.
Q Congratulations on the achievement! Could you take us through the highs-and-lows of your winning strategy – and how important is it for Omnicom to have its strategy recognised this year?
We are thrilled to receive the award! As the only media agency nominated for the award, it was a proud moment for us. Prior to the pandemic, OMG Singapore has a policy in place that enables employees to seamlessly transition to working comfortably from home thus, on the equipment and IT structure front, we were ready for it. However, there’s more to remote working than just laptops and a stable wireless connection. Confronted with Zoom calls and emails throughout the day, there were many areas we had to look at to ensure that our employees' wellbeing was not severely affected during the pandemic.
It was a challenge for the team in the initial stage as we were facing an unprecedented challenge. It was much more difficult to connect with people through virtual means. It was just as hard for our HR team as we had to plan initiatives to connect our people while we are disconnected physically. However, I am proud of the team for coming together to try new ideas and executing them speedily.
To ensure our employees’ wellbeing is constantly kept in check, we have rolled out multiple initiatives and engagement activities within a span of two years. Our hard work has paid off and the pandemic has taught us that it is possible to work from home (WFH) and be efficient. We hope that whoever joins our organisation is rest assured that flexibility is a factor OMG is willing to explore.
Q Understanding and meeting your employees’ needs and expectations is never an easy feat. How did the organisation identify the business & employee needs, and craft out the perfect solution?
The key to understanding and meeting our employees’ needs is constant communication. Our continuous feedback process throughout our peoples’ journey, which includes regular feedback surveys and one-on-one calls, has helped us understand what we are doing right, their pain points, and areas for us to improve. We have put in effort to create an environment that enables our people to feel secure and safe in sharing their thoughts. Through their feedback, we learn, analyse, and create action plans.
Q How did the strategy add to the overall employee experience in OMG, in terms of ROI, when it came to fruition? Share with us the benefits of having such a strategy in place.
In a virtual WFH environment, we were aware that conversations with colleagues have become transactional. With regular feedback and check-ins, we assured our people that the organisation is stable, and we remain connected to them. Our engagement activities focus on building a sense of camaraderie within the team outside of work with virtual bonding games where they are encouraged to interact with their teammates. The pandemic has taught us those organisations who continually strived to enhance their work environment even through virtual means would create a meaningful experience for employees.
With a sense of belonging to the company and a boosted team morale, we have seen a positive impact on productivity and work performance. This has resulted in business growth and an expanded list of new client accounts.
Q Could you offer some recommendations to your peers across industries – what advice or lessons would you have to guide them into implementing something similar for their own EX foundation?
When challenged with a new problem, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. COVID-19 was an unprecedented challenge for most organisations across all industries. With no experience and reference point to rely on, we had to explore many ideas and execute plans that we’d never done before. Along the way, keep your feedback channels open. By understanding your business, learning more about your people, and knowing your resources on hand, you will be able to come up with a concrete plan.
Q If you were to reflect, what is one thing you’ll do differently in executing this strategy?
As the pandemic brought an unprecedented challenge to the team, we executed the plan almost immediately. In retrospect, we believe that involving the department heads and implement matrix to track deliverables right from the start would have given us a better indication on how our strategy is working in the early stage.
Q Looking ahead, how is the organisation going to take this winning strategy higher and further in the coming years? Give us a sneak peek to into your upcoming plans to grow the overall employee experience.
Remote working has been so successful because it was mandated, and we made the best out of the situation then. In our current hybrid working arrangements, we will continue to monitor sentiments, expectations, and our business needs to see what works best for our people and the company.
Next in line, we will focus our efforts in developing our training pillar and rolling out employee engagement initiatives that work in the new environment.
Q 10 years down the line, where do you see the future of HR?
Presently, there is a growing realisation that HR value adds best when the team is regarded as a strategic partner to the overall business operations. In the future, looking into concrete data and HR analytics would further complement HR value to organisations.
We now see remote work as a paradigm shift, especially in the next generation of the workforce in 2030. With remote work gaining support as the norm, engagement techniques need to be adapted to reach out to the workforce. In the years ahead of us, we need to start thinking about how we sustain connections and create meaningful work cultures online.
Creating a stronger HR team would also mean relegating repetitive administrative tasks to systems. This will free up time and the team’s capabilities in other areas. It’s crucial for HR practitioners to value add to the organisation by spending more time on strategy and engagement, and have a stronger correlation to bottom lines.
Lastly, on the cultural front, investing in DEI efforts is imperative to the health and success of any organisation. As HR practitioners, we should be inculcating DEI into HR principles to create a workplace where our people can thrive, personally and professionally.
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