HR Summit Melbourne: Mars HRD on navigating the hybrid world of work

How to navigate the new hybrid world of work with finesse

HR Summit Melbourne: Mars HRD on navigating the hybrid world of work

Fostering an authentic sense of connection and trust among a dispersed workforce is one of the biggest challenges facing employers today. With the death of the five-day working week, hybrid working offers employees the chance to tip the scales in favour of a better work/life balance.

But embracing this new level of flexibility comes with its own hurdles. Now, people leaders are redesigning the employee experience from a virtual point of view, meaning workers are connected to their organisation’s core values whether at home or in the office.

Next month, some of Australia’s leading HR directors will come together to share insight, experience and learnings on this challenge at HRD’s two-day HR Summit Melbourne. Delving into exactly what has worked – and what hasn’t – as they navigate the new world of work, it’s an opportunity to reconnect after an incredibly testing year.

HRD spoke to Katy Halliwell, Human Resources Director at Mars Wrigley Australia, and one of the panellists at next month’s event, who will be discussing how to build a strong employee experience and culture virtually.

“It's a big topic of conversation but I think employee experience touches upon new people coming into the business as well as those who are already there,” she said.

“The role that HR plays is to really make sure that we are providing what our people need, as well as having an eye on what the business needs, and so for me, employee experience when done really well is a meeting of those two things.”

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As the manufacturer of some of Australia’s best-loved sweet treats, like Maltesers, M&Ms and Twix, Halliwell said 70% of the workforce has continued to operate on the factory floor throughout the pandemic. The remainder pivoted almost overnight to working remotely from home, something Halliwell said was “huge shift” for the organisation.

Now, the future is very much hybrid. After some initial trialling, they’ve landed on 2-3 days in the office to maintain a culture of collaboration while also offering the flexibility that employees enjoyed, Halliwell said.

“We were always really clear that the office would still play an important role in our business,” she said. “From a culture perspective, we really value that connection and collaboration and the best way to achieve that is through face-to-face interaction.”

As well as embracing hybrid working, Mars has rewritten the rulebook by saying no to Friday meetings. As a highly collaborative environment, Halliwell said creating a meeting-free day was a significant step. But she acknowledged that like many organisations, the amount of meetings attended by employees has risen and as a result, the working day is only getting longer.

“We really wanted to protect Friday as a day where people could truly be flexible and work out what they needed to get done on that day, without requiring them to attend formal meetings,” she said.

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When it comes to fostering a strong culture virtually, Mars has employed a number of different strategies to keep people connected. The company rolled out its existing L&D virtually, armed managers with plenty of training on how to lead their teams remotely, and enhanced the EAP offering to support wellbeing of employees across the organisation.

“We brought in experts to talk about mental health and about resiliency, but we also made sure that we weren't just focused on our associates who were working remotely,” Halliwell said. “We also thought about our associates who were needing to come into work and came up with creative ways to make their lives a little bit easier.”

To hear more from Halliwell, and the other leading HR professionals at next month’s HR Summit Melbourne, click here to see the full line-up and register for your place.

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