How to be an employer of choice in a hybrid workplace

Cardinal Health's head of HR shares essential tips

How to be an employer of choice in a hybrid workplace

Every HR leader knows that sustaining the ‘employer of choice’ status requires consistent effort and a clear focus from the entire organisation. The task becomes even tougher for HR heads and company leaders when you factor in difficult circumstances such as managing a distanced, diverse workforce during a prolonged crisis. This has not deterred the leadership team at Cardinal Health, Asia Pacific from being voted as employer of choice for the second consecutive year.

HRD found that the multinational healthcare services company managed to achieve an impressive employee engagement score of 84% for the past 12 months. The high score can be attributed to consistent investments in multiple areas of employee engagement. For instance, with the support of HR and regular outreach efforts by the APAC leadership team, Cardinal Health attained high levels of employee satisfaction –about seven points higher year-on-year to be exact.

When benchmarked against other multinational firms, Cardinal Health employees rated them significantly higher for things like career management, empowerment, and organisational change. We spoke to Alice Chou, head of HR, Asia Pacific at Cardinal Health to find out how they’ve managed to keep up a positive employee experience throughout the pandemic.

READ MORE: Cardinal Health HRD reveals secret to employee engagement

Supportive leadership key to keep employees happy

Chou told us that sustaining employee engagement boils down to two key areas: clear communication and supportive leadership. Cardinal Health can attest to the benefits of doubling down on transparent, multi-channel communication during a difficult crisis. It strengthens engagement and promotes dialogue, said Chou, which are critical to meet employees’ varied needs.

“The APAC leadership team is proactive in creating an interactive and open communication environment in the company,” Chou said. Apart from regular interaction with employees, company leaders made it a priority to invest time and effort into several areas including:

  • Creating opportunities for two-way dialogue with country leadership teams via quarterly APAC extended leadership team sessions and annual regional town halls.
  • Regularly engaging employees to shape business culture and recognise performance through townhalls, email messages and podcasts/videos.
  • Conducting monthly one-on-one sessions with direct reports and/or skip level associates to discuss their well-being, performance, and career development.
  • Organising talent roundtables with global leaders to promote talent and inspire employees.
  • Mentoring talent – each leader had two or more mentees under their wing.

Cardinal Health’s leadership team’s dedication to engaging employees may be exactly what’s needed to retain employees in a time when studies constantly highlight a growing disconnect between workers and their organisations.

A global study by O.C. Tanner for instance found that about one in three employees feel disconnected from their leaders. This can lead to a case of “social fragmentation” or a misalignment of purpose or goals. Employees who developed strong connections with their managers said they were 11 times more likely to stay within the organisation for at least another year and three times more to stay for more than three years.

READ MORE: How can HR become 'connector leaders'?

Interactive communication channels

It’s thus heartening to know that the leaders at Cardinal Health were especially hands-on in engaging employees. Even then, HR has a critical role to enable and sustain strong connections across the organisation. Chou told us that her team worked closely with leaders to develop comprehensive strategies to address issues raised in employee surveys. In addition, they helped leaders remain accessible. This was done through a dedicated email channel that allowed employees to share their views or concerns directly with regional leaders.

The HR team also supported interactive communication efforts such as the sharing of regular videos or podcasts by leaders and employees. Furthermore, they banked on internal social media platforms to keep employees connected. “All of the above communication and leadership initiatives have been put in place to ensure our associates feel supported and heard, and have the resources to be happy and healthy in the age of COVID-19,” Chou said.

READ MORE: How to help staff feel connected to the company

How to remain an employer of choice in post-pandemic world

With their consistent success in being an employer of choice, we asked Chou for advice on how to achieve and retain the status in a constantly changing world. Right off the bat, Chou said she believes employers must remain committed to striking a balance between employee and customer centricity. “Companies need to reinvent how they provide rewarding and tailored career experiences to employees,” she said. “Employers will need to recalibrate and focus on the key drivers to business success, while also offering an attractive employment ecosystem to retain their best people.

“Have candid conversations with employees about what they really want, what they can offer to the company, the renumeration desired and what the company can realistically offer in their total rewards or career package. Once this is done, employees should be invited to create their ideal state and growth targets together with the company. In this way, employees take on an active role in creating their own future. This is the key to sustaining the employer of choice status.”

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