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When I applied for the role of Global Head of People at AZA Finance in February 2020, I never envisaged having to join the company in the midst of worldwide lockdown due to COVID-19. Kicking off this mind blowing experience at AZA Finance remotely in March 2020 (a first for me), it was imperative for my team and I to develop and deploy various strategies not only to ensure peak performance, but also to boost employee morale during the new work from home phase.
As the world slowly inches towards a post-COVID era, we at AZA Finance are keen to explore how we thrived and our unrelenting next steps to continue to help businesses move money more easily, make payments, and balance assets across 115+ markets.
Here are some of the strategies our collaborative teams adopted to allow us to grow employee numbers by over 35% and counting.
What we did well to improve our work from home experience:
Employee Welfare & Engagement
Like most companies, our initial concerns were about our employees’ wellbeing; ensuring that our employees stay safe, protected, engaged and productive. Here are some of the steps we took:
- Slack: Utilising the Slack platform, our AZAwatus continued to stay connected as one unified team. For engagement purposes, various channels were created, especially our #SocialWFH, where we engaged in various icebreaker activities such as riddles, “Fun with Flags”, ‘Guess the song/artiste/movie/cartoon/etc’, our all time classic “3 Truths & 1 Lie” and many more all of which helped nurture and grow our bond. ‘Donut’ an add-on to Slack has all been a useful addition that has helped with getting to know each other better by randomly setting up two colleagues for a non-work related 1:1.
- Quarterly Virtual Team Hangouts: Our super awesome Business Operations team plan the best virtual hangouts, with fun, games, music, good food (delivered to each staff) & more. Rules for the hangouts are simple, no ‘shop-talk’.
- Home Office Set-Up: As the pandemic raged on, it became clear that setting up a home office for each of our employees was essential. We noticed that employees had been working from kitchen Islands, dining tables, sofas, which would not be sustainable in the long run. We provided one-off funds to every employee to ensure they could set up an home-office with ergonomic workstations & chairs.
- Quarterly Awards: Celebrating our quarterly accomplishments has proven to be a huge boost to employee morale. Nominations & voting which are totally employee -driven and focus on team collaboration on projects, recognition of MVPs and culture champions, with amazing prizes and rewards.
One of our initial concerns at AZA Finance was how productive we would be as we navigated this new world of work; though we currently operate with offices in 9 countries, we understood the need to maintain peak performance. Some deliberate focus areas include:
- Effective Feedback: At AZA Finance, priority is placed on providing constant feedback on the progress of our quarterly SMART goals; via 1:1 sessions and daily/weekly stand-ups/check-ins.
- Robust People Management Platform: To further enhance our approach to people strategy, we needed a platform that would unify performance management, employee engagement and employee development; hence the deployment of Lattice. Lattice not only ensures we track our individual goals as it aligns with the overall company goals, but also provides a platform for effective communication/feedback during 1:1s, grows career paths per division, ensures 360 degree performance review and helps us carry out anonymous pulse surveys for inclusive decision making.
- ‘No Meeting Mondays’: In an effort to reduce burnout and provide the team with focused time to complete their individual tasks, we initially kicked off with 2-hours dedicated by managers bi-monthly to focus on admin tasks. This morphed into no-meeting Mondays for all employees to catch up on their to-do lists and be prepared for the week ahead.
While we have succeeded tremendously in creating a collaborative and supportive remote work environment for our employees, there are still certain areas that we need to improve upon.
What we are looking to improve upon as we continue to work from home:
- Time-Off: There have been challenges with encouraging employees to take time-off., though we have noticed a significant improvement in the 1st half of 2021. This is one area that would require attention to reduce burnout.
- Videos On: Most teams have scheduled weekly or biweekly check-ins to ensure that the collaborative spirit remains fostered and they are able to engage with each other outside of Slack and email. However, most employees have shied away from turning their cameras on during calls. This, we believe, would boost involvement during meetings and will allow managers and team leaders to see how team members are fairing as we continue to work from home. even if a hybrid work model is adopted.
- Workplace Burnout: In recent times, it has become even more critical to be intentional about working with our AZAwatus to identify and avoid burnout. Some of the immediate measures involve working with managers to ensure they identify early warning signs. This can be achieved by including such topics as compulsory topics for 1:1 sessions; training managers on how to identify burnout triggers and sharing tidbits of information about how to manage burnout and work-related stress in our monthly newsletters.
All-in-all, our HR Metrics data proves positive that here at AZA Finance, we have successfully navigated and thrived in the last 16 months of Work From Home. This could not have been achieved without the unrelenting support of the leadership & all AZAwatus!!!! We all truly deserve a pat on the back…
Global Head of People Operations