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We are a competency-focused, gender-fluid organisation: Anju Kurien

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. Last year, we launched our unique and distinct program, called WOMEN DISRUPTORS, which drew a lot of attention and was highly appreciated by the industry. W-SUITE is a special initiative from Adgully that has been turning the spotlight on some of the most remarkable women achievers in M&E, Advertising & Marketing, PR & Communication industry. In the refurbished series, we will find out how women leaders have been managing their teams and work as well as how they have been navigating through the toughest and most challenging times brought about by the global pandemic.

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A firm believer in the progression and growth of her team members, Anju Kurien heads talent at the Omnicom Media Group. According to her, human behaviour plays a particularly important part in hiring people at OMG. The pandemic disrupted every other industry and it was a huge challenge for the HR team to navigate through these unchartered waters. There were several challenges starting from collaborating and interacting with F2F to imparting training programs and continuously being engaged with the employees on various aspects of work. Digital became the new language and WFH became the new norm, which forced employees adapt to a new style of working. A totally fresh approach and thinking was needed to manage teams across different locations and every one had to reinvent themselves to face these new challenges and move ahead.

In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Anju Kurien, Talent Director at Omnicom Media Group, speaks about how her organisation has been navigating through the pandemic period and working towards seamless engagement with all their employees across all their offices.

 

The pandemic has really disrupted the entire world. What are some of the challenges that you are facing while engaging with your employees? What kind of HR strategy have you developed to stay engaged with your audience?

Yes, the pandemic has brought forth challenges that no organisation could have completely fathomed. We are watching the situation closely, as it unfolds, and looking after our teams with empathy. All of us have been impacted in some way, directly and indirectly. Taking care of our employees’ well-being is our primary prerogative at this hour. With work from home in place, we have evolved our digital focus. We are getting more objective-oriented as an organisation. With the demographic dividend being millennial, we are redefining our culture by digitalisation of systems and processes. We have come to understand that with a hybrid working structure and the expansion of the gig economy, adaptability to the changing market dynamics is a non-negotiable skill, however one that can be nurtured and built. So, we are working towards building a pipeline of leaders who can leverage both their experience and their agility. Opening ourselves to a flexible workforce and upskilling our existing teams, we are being nimble with incorporating employee feedback, encouraging reverse mentoring and hiring a diverse holistic talent pool.

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Training and Development are very important for every agency, be it Media or Advertising. How have you been managing and imparting training to your employees as most of them are still working from home?

The pandemic has intensified the need for reskilling and upskilling of existing and new employees. A fluid workforce is now imperative and most sectors are rethinking their training budgets. With distribution of employees geographically, rapid swing towards all-things digital, and a surge in online interactivity and learning, geography is less of a barrier than before. People’s readiness to learn online has also increased. Considering that hybrid working is already the new normal, there is less resistance to online training and collaboration. As the global workforce gets increasingly comfortable with virtual interactions, I believe this will be further bolstered.

Do you feel the traditional role of interpersonal communication, which was so critical to the profession, has somehow been put on the back burner because of too much virtual engagement? How are you experiencing that? Is it bringing down the efficiency and the final output in your organisation?

Organisations have to be future-forward and adapt to the times to thrive. Virtual engagement was not caused by the pandemic, it was simply intensified. Integrating updated technology and ‘working in silos’ are some changes that companies were already tackling. Hence, the shifting emphasis on employee engagement in the past decade with looming digitalisation. Many countries in the world are reshaping their human resource codes now to align with growing demand for flexible working schedules as employees juggle their roles and responsibilities. Personal interaction was definitely critical to the A&M industry, but retaining relationships with stakeholders even more so. And that has taken a slight hit due to the lockdown. But we are ensuring that we encourage our employees to voice their concerns, reach out and share as much as they can to keep collaboration on and engagement on track.

Work-life balance has been a challenge ever since organisations shifted to the WFH mode. What are some of the important measures that your organisation has taken to bring in some balance in the lives of your employees, especially when it comes to mental strength and well-being?

Flexibility in working hours, reduced commutation time and a better work-life balance can be said to have increased the productivity of employees. However, employees are also facing challenges pertaining to socialisation and in some cases they are faced with blurred boundaries between leisure and work, creating issues in balancing effective communication and cooperation with peers.

Gender sensitivity has always been discussed across organisations. How is your company tackling this and how women managers are empowered, motivated, and given more challenges and opportunities to grow in the company?

We are a competency-focused, gender-fluid organisation. We are led by innovation and change. We ensure that our management remains approachable and that feedback is really factored in our ethos. We motivate people to cooperate and want them to feel like they belong.

Organisations will be facing challenges as the pandemic will take time to ease out completely. Being part of the leadership team of HR, how do you plan to redefine your strategy and address the aftermath of the pandemic?

The pandemic has presented a hidden opportunity for leaders to recalibrate the talent pool as a key competitive advantage. We must anticipate future needs while hiring now, based on current skill gaps, since times we live in are uncertain. The aim is to build a more tech-savvy, agile and fluid workforce. Simultaneously, upskilling the existing resource pool is also necessary. Cultural organisational changes led by human resources will look at enabling people to do their work flexibly and scope for talent that is collaborative, prioritising people and their well-being.

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