Bayer's Özden Yiğitrevisit on how to engage employees and attract talent
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Bayer’s head of HR on why companies need to revisit policies and explore new ways to engage employees

Bayer’s head of HR on why companies need to revisit policies and explore new ways to engage employees

To continue attracting the next generation of talent, it is crucial for organisations to start adopting a forward-thinking mobility strategy

Özden Yiğit BAyer ME

The past two years have cemented a truth that resonates with employers across the Middle East: the best talent gravitate towards organisations that hold a purposeful and inclusive vision – one that can be compelling and inspiring to people of varied backgrounds and skill-sets.

The pandemic and resulting shifts in work culture has created an opportune moment for employers in the Middle East to revisit their established policies and values and explore new ways to engage employees in a manner that respects individual differences.

Matching the right work to the right setting goes far beyond the pandemic
Many organisations, including ours, were successful in maintaining productivity when they suddenly had to transition to work from home. This was hardly a surprise as pre-COVID research told us that people who spend at least a portion of their typical workweek outside the office tend to have higher workplace satisfaction, job commitment, engagement, and score higher on indicators of innovation.

This only strengthens the argument to install a regular flexible working policy across organisations to give each employee the freedom to choose what works best for them. Working closely with leadership, such a policy should permit variations in the times employees start and end each workday, variations in the length of the workday, and a “work-from-anywhere” policy while maintaining a consistent number of hours worked in a week.

We recognise that efforts to shift towards making work more flexible and suited to each individual’s needs can pay off well in this region. Last year, in an internal survey, 77 per cent of our employees said that they benefitted from flexible working arrangements, while scoring the extent to which such policies support their work-life balance above 4 out of 5.

To continue attracting the next generation of talent, it is crucial for organisations to start adopting a forward-thinking mobility strategy. While almost three-quarters (74 per cent of professionals in the UAE think that the pandemic exposed a need for change in flexible working, more than half (55 per cent) say that no new policies have been introduced.

Working a “hybrid model” allows teams and individuals to be more deliberate with how they use their time, be generally more aware of what colleagues are working on and enjoy higher job satisfaction overall. To perform at their best, employees need to work at a time and setting where they are at their best. The role of an employer is to give people the opportunity to collaborate on projects that matter to them in a way that matters to them and ensure they are empowered to achieve.

Harnessing the power of the individual
Any employer seeking to create positive impact in society at large needs to speak to individual motives first, thus reaching the core of what motivates their everyday actions.

As a first step, we need to empower people to bring their full selves to work by harnessing the passion and curiosity for the work they do – and how they get it done. By creating a workplace where individuals can express themselves, employers can unlock varied ways of thinking to make a larger impact across their organisations. Moreover, this is crucial to making employees feel like they are part of a value-driven community.

Recognising that family is a primary motivator for individuals in the workforce, employers in the Middle East also need to consider investing in their maternity and paternity leave policies. Learnings from the pandemic motivated us to increase maternity leave to 16 weeks and paternity leave to two weeks, well beyond the established benchmarks in the region.

Fostering innovation and experimentation through diversity
Inclusion and diversity in the workplace goes beyond just achieving targets. Achieving balance in an organisation is akin to taking care of a garden. Even when targets are met, retaining that healthy balance requires continued care and attention. If everyone looks the same and has the same background, then they can also have the same blind spots. A diverse approach gives companies the chance to benefit from views that fall outside the norm.

Gender balance, in particular, is something we have always seen as a business topic before a women’s topic. It requires involvement and accountability across the board to achieve progress. While women certainly have a stronger presence in the workforce, disparities remain. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Pay Gap Index, of the 156 countries measured, the UAE ranked at 72.

Gender balanced workforces are more likely to offer varied perspectives and approaches, resulting in better decisions. Furthermore, innovation and experimentation remain key to organisational growth. Achieving an innovation mindset is only made possible by an empowering, bias-free and supportive gender equal workplace.

Finally, any company that does not prioritize gender diversity runs the risk of failing to attract or retain the best talent. When a company makes gender equality a long-term priority and communicates that fact to its employees at every opportunity, awareness and then change start to take place. Starting from leaders, all employees need to take ownership. Change may be a long-term vision but every conversation and action can help bring us closer to the goal.

The writer is the head of human resources at Bayer Middle East

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