With the right support, colleagues at American Express have the power to grow in incredible ways
American Express won the Silver Award for Best Remote Management Strategy at Employee Experience Awards 2021, Malaysia, in addition to being nominated as a finalist in the Best Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Best Crisis Management and Leadership categories.
In this interview, Anjum Ghaffar, Director of Human Resources, American Express (photo above, second row, third from right), shares the three strategic pillars that guide them: offering an exceptional work experience every day, developing the best talents and developing new working methods to create value for the organization.
Q Congratulations on winning this award! What is your award-winning employee experience strategy that led to this victory?
At American Express, we know that with the right support, our people have the power to grow in incredible ways. We are guided by three strategic pillars; offer every day a great experience to your colleagues, develop the best talents and develop new working methods to create value for the organization.
The well-being and safety of our colleagues has always been our priority. With the pandemic, this became even more important, besides keeping everyone connected to the business while we were working from home.
The keys to our success have been leaders who walk the walk, talk to talk and collaboration.
In the 48 hours following the announcement of the containment of the country, 87% of our colleagues were indeed equipped to work from home.
While our colleagues were working from home, we doubled down on communication to make sure colleagues were kept in the loop. This was all done through our town halls, increased team groups, improved individual recordings and surveys to gauge feelings and get feedback while making sure they are doing well during the pandemic. .
Q How have you and your team conceptualized and adapted this strategy to meet the changing needs of the workforce over the past year?
As an organization, we stayed focused on what really mattered to our colleagues in this virtual working reality by improving our digital engagement solutions and wellness strategy.
As most of our colleagues work remotely, Amex has made significant investments in improving medical and wellness benefits to ensure that colleagues have access to the right level of support at the right time. These include the launch of telehealth services that offer free GP consultation to colleagues and their family members, giving colleagues 24/7 access to medical advice and medication delivered to them. residence.
We have actively adapted our global mental wellness strategy and initiatives, including self-care campaigns, weekly live meditation sessions, and walk-in sessions with counselors. We have also improved our insurance coverage by including coverage for mental health care, allowing our colleagues to claim psychiatric treatment and medication.
For colleagues who could not work efficiently from home, we provided pocket Wi-Fi and peripherals as part of the technology integration. Our tech team also supported our colleagues through various channels during this time including calls, chats, emails or through our tech web portal for support.
The transition was made even more seamless as remote working was incorporated into our business continuity plan in March 2020 as we began to see the impact of the pandemic in other parts of the world.
Q What challenges did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
With the government’s short notice – 24 hours to be exact – we had to act quickly to equip our colleagues to telecommute. It was not as easy as it sounds.
The transition to working from home in such a short time came with its own challenges. The most important thing was to ensure that we continued to provide the level of service that our customers expect from us despite the lack of adequate tools and technological resources.
In less than 48 hours, most of our colleagues were fully equipped with the right hardware and software thanks to the speed and execution of our business continuity plan, which allowed for smooth business operations with minimal disruption. .
Since our colleague base is 91% Millennials, we also needed to ensure that our colleague engagement strategy included coaching staff leaders to manage their teams while working remotely.
We have provided training and support to encourage and give feedback while being sensitive to the situation. It was important for us to ensure that our colleagues continued to have the means to learn and grow, while putting their mental health first.
Another challenge was to adapt our HR policies to the new environment. Before the pandemic, our HR policies were designed to meet the needs of our colleagues in a physical office environment. The HR team had to pivot quickly to develop and deliver solutions that allow our leaders and colleagues to navigate in a virtual environment. HR developed a playbook for staff leaders that clarified processes and policies in a lockdown and semi-lockdown environment.
Q How has the strategy added to the overall employee experience in your organization, in terms of ROI?
We are very encouraged to see that our efforts are paying off. Our colleagues continued to feel connected to the organization despite working almost from home. In our annual 2020 Colleague Experience Survey, results across all categories, including engagement and well-being, continued to be positive. In addition, the response rate was the highest in five years and our engagement score reached an all-time high of 85%.
Here are the comments of a few colleagues:
“Thank you American Express, I am grateful to work for such a compassionate employer who truly supports my well-being and, more importantly, my work-life integration, especially in these uncertain times.” – Renuga Govindan, Manager, Colleague and Labor Relations.
âThank you, Amex, for everything. I feel blessed and grateful to be assured of having a job and being able to continue working from home. – Ganapathy R M. Operations Analyst
Q What’s the most exciting and valuable thing about being a part of (and winning!) The inaugural Employee Experience Awards?
Being recognized in the Employee Experience Awards reaffirms that we offer the best work experience to our colleagues. As an employer, we want to help our colleagues thrive at work and in life, as they seek opportunities that allow them to learn and develop their careers with American Express.
Winning the silver award in the âBest Remote Management Strategyâ category, or any award during this pandemic has made this recognition even more special for us.
Q Going forward, what else have you planned to continue to improve the overall employee experience?
Many aspects are taken into consideration before making any decision. In particular, we need to consider the comfort level of our colleagues when defining our new way of working while maintaining the collaborative culture and lessons learned during the pandemic.
From a flexible working arrangement perspective, the mix of office and home work will be the default for most of our colleagues.
We want to keep those aspects of the virtual environment that have worked well for us, such as greater inclusion in our global colleague base, better work-life balance, improved digital mindset, and the elimination of bureaucracy to get things done.
All of our wellness and safety initiatives will continue to be improved and reviewed to ensure that they fit well into the hybrid environment, such as more digitalized or application-based solutions, to which colleagues can easily access it anytime and anywhere.
Work processes such as integration activities that have already been virtualized will be further transformed into small-sized video modules to ensure simplicity and speed of delivery.
Q Share tips to inspire your peers who are working on their EX strategies and who would like to enter the awards next year.
Always put the colleague at the heart of your strategy. When you take care of your employees, they will take care of you (the company) in return.
Participating in such awards and forums not only provides a platform to share best practices, but more importantly, helps to learn new initiatives from other organizations as we move forward to create the best work and experience experience. colleagues.
Q Finally, to end on a funny note, if you could describe the employee experience in your organization in one sentence, what would it be?
Bring your talents and strengths to the team and create a meaningful career path that’s unique to you.
You lead the way, we support you.
Photo / Supplied
Read more interviews on why organizations have won awards for their HR practices – visit our Winning Secrets Section!