Q&A: Avery Banta on APAC's Evolving Relationship with Employee Engagement

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APAC Employee engagement interview

Ahead of inaugural Employee Engagement and Experience APAC free online event, we thought we'd take a closer look at the efforts being made to improve the employee experience in the region. 

Avery Banta, HR Business Partner Lead for Globe Telecom Phillipines, is focused on this issue in her daily work and will be presenting a session during day 1 of the event titled "Promoting a Digital Workforce Engagement Strategy and Implementation to Bolster Communication, Connection, and a Sense of Value for Our Employees." 

We sat down with Banta to chat about her efforts to ramp up employee engagement during the pandemic and to connect people with leaders in ways that didn't exist before. 

HREN: APAC employers have often been conservative in their approach to engaging the workforce, but it seems like COVID-19 is changing this. So I’m curious what sort of changes have you seen around how you engage employees and what you’re looking to get from it?

Avery Banta: Yes, we have adapted many of our leadership practices to engage our workforce more effectively in a virtual set-up. Before COVID-19, we would have spontaneous check-ins with our people over coffee or lunch. Sometimes when we see our people in the breakroom or when we chance upon them along the hallway, we take advantage of that moment to ask how they are or what help they need.  Now that we are working-from-home, we are seeing more and more leaders doing planned/scheduled but more intentional virtual check-ins with their people. 

Another good example of is how engage our people now in the form of townhalls. Before, townhalls were quarterly and ran for almost half a day. Today, we have evolved our townhall format to short and sweet virtual sessions on a bi-weekly basis, even supplemented by fun creative games to liven up the team gathering. There are many other examples I can share, but all these new practices evolved with the intent of keeping more connected to our employees during these times when they seem to need it more. 

HREN: Technology is obviously playing a big part in this as we see increased digitalization, but every company’s needs and capabilities are different. How have you gone about assessing what the company needs are and how your team can address them?

AB: We always try to have our ear closer to the ground.  We do surveys, we ask our leaders, we get feedback from our people. Then we turn those ideas into a solution to address the needs. We are blessed to have a set of brilliant and creative people who can come up with apps or bots to help us communicate or engage our workforce.

HREN: As you focus on mental wellness as well as physical, what has that conversation been like with employees? How are you helping them when challenges arise?

AB: On physical wellness, we have ramped up our communication campaigns to help our employees stay fit and healthy. In addition, we have fitness classes done virtually. On mental wellness, which I personally believe is a growing concern in many organizations today, requires even greater focus. We have partnered with an external party that specializes on mental well-being. We provided our employees with easy access to their mental health consultants/counsellors so they can seek professional help.

HREN: Engagement is also proving to be a vehicle for recognition and reward in your efforts it seems like. Can you tell us a bit more about that and what kind of impact it’s had on performance?

AB: We need to be equally creative in terms of how we recognize and reward. Aside from ensuring that the virtual townhalls include a recognition portion, we have also explored an app that makes it easy for employees to give away "kudos" to each other. It's amazing how people can be expressive and appreciative in a work environment like this. You'll be surprised that both giver and receiver get their own form of satisfaction by giving away positive vibes in the form or virtual recognition.  

HREN:  A sense of connection has been vital during this period, but it’s not just been a matter of helping maintain a feeling of connection to the company, it’s also about helping them feel connected to each other. Have you put any programs in place to achieve this and if so, what has been your measurement for success?

AB: While majority of our workforce is working from home, we do have some employees who are out on the field as part of our critical skeletal force. These are our heroes taking care of our IT and network systems. One program we have launched to keep connected with them is virtual check-in and open forum with our senior leaders. This is our way to get them closer to our leaders, provide them with a venue to share their experiences, and allow them to have a direct line for their questions. So far, these sessions have been well received.

HR Exchange Live: Employee Engagement and Experience APAC

HR Exchange: Employee Engagement and Experience APAC includes sessions with top experts in the HR field along with applicable, real-life examples of how a robust culture supports the workforce and the company’s bottom-line.  We also provide access to some of the most well-known and cutting edge solution providers to help provide technology and strategy to enhance the employee experience paradigm within your company. This FREE to attend event allows you to dial in from the comfort of your desk and listen to HR leaders live or on demand!  

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