Realizing HR functions in a virtual workplace


Since the beginning of 2020, we have been challenged to change the way we work. This, in turn, has challenged the HR professional to rethink and reimagine the future of work. HR is at the epicenter of this change, and it’s the best opportunity to make a lasting impact as an HR leader.

In this blog post, I’ve listed down the initiatives exercised personally and the initiatives we’ve taken as a company to ease our way into virtual working.

Constant communication

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. In a strange reality where we can’t meet people every day, leaders must communicate frequently. As soon as we were fully on work-from-home mode, we had a virtual team meeting to explain and clarify the next steps. Since then, we have been having virtual team meetings monthly, where business and operational updates are shared, and employees are presented with an opportunity to ask questions. The meetings are held at a convenient time for our global workforce to join, and we’ve seen a higher participation rate compared to last year. The need for providing clarity and connecting frequently were vital during this time.

Delivering services virtually

To ensure seamless technology services delivery, we launched our Virtual Global Delivery (VGD) framework. This virtual solutions delivery framework brings together governance, skills, human and technology resources, and robust collaboration, enabling us to seamlessly deliver services to our global customer base.

Concurrently, we rolled out a level-based online training program to our employees, equipping them with best practices, competencies, and communication skills that would help us continue service delivery in a virtual setting. The training included virtual classroom training, experience sharing, and one-on-one mentoring, followed by an online assessment.

Engaging employees

We are a social species, and we are happier when we spend time with people. To ensure people are connected and engage with each other remotely, we increased the frequency of HRBP (HR business partnering) pulse checks, which were conducted as company-wide surveys alongside one-to-one meetings. The pulse check surveys looked into productivity, work-life balance, mental wellness, and problems with working from home. The feedback we received from employees helped us measure the employee experience against the virtual engagement initiatives we deployed. Most employees wanted to continue working from home full-time or have a hybrid work model where they split time between workplace and home.

Along with the survey feedback, we held virtual programs on mental wellness, which were conducted by our in-house psychologist and external facilitators who specialized in workplace wellness. We also had online yoga sessions, which included relaxation and breathing exercises. Several other initiatives were organized, coinciding with national observances and commemorative days such as World Happiness Day and World Mental Health Awareness Day. Through the Fortude Fix Instagram Live series, we conducted how-to and informative sessions on a range of topics, including cooking, fitness, mental wellness, photography, calligraphy, and making crafts using recycled material. One Fortude Fix event featured a storytelling session for kids. This series allowed Fortude to engage with people outside their work circle and was an initiative to even support our wider social communities.

In addition, we conducted virtual quiz nights, online games, virtual treasure hunts, and riddle-solving games. Despite the hurdles of the pandemic, we held our internal photography competition Shutterbugs, with a special category on “Life in Quarantine.”

These events were organized, keeping the need for engaging a global workforce in mind.

Talent acquisition and onboarding

While we continued with our business operations, our team also needed to grow. We launched our annual graduate trainee recruitment campaign ‘Create’ virtually, where candidates applied to the program through an interactive Instagram-based challenge. The application process was followed by assessments and interviews, which were conducted 100% virtually. We are also looking at ways that can optimize our onboarding and training programs virtually.

The remote work environment also opened new opportunities for giggers, which we leveraged as support for our talent acquisition process and to help deliver training programs.

Performance management

We held our performance management and individual development conversations as planned, despite working remotely. Managers were encouraged to have frequent touch bases with their subordinates. All learning and development activities, including training, have been shifted to 100% online. This meant we had to restructure the program to increase engagement, and quizzes were included before and after the training sessions to encourage better participation.

Recognizing employees

Employees were recognized quarterly at the virtual team meetings. We had to flip the narrative to find ways to move our recognition system to a virtual space where employees would feel valued. We conceptualized and created badges and e-certificates, which employees could showcase on their LinkedIn profiles to help deliver the same emotion felt when receiving a certificate in front of a physical audience. The results: we saw a lot of LinkedIn engagement on their posts from other employees and peers in the industry.

Bite-size knowledge sharing sessions

Through my affiliation with the Association of Human Resource Professionals (AHRP), we launched a series of bite-size knowledge sharing sessions on topics that are relevant in the new normal. We completed over ten sessions in two months. Conducted free, the sessions were engaging and popular, attracting more than 50 participants for each session.

Reading capsules

On a personal note, I started writing in a series of reading capsules. Published on LinkedIn, the reading capsules capture my thoughts and experiences. I also enrolled in a course on transformational coaching conducted by the Coach Masters Academy. Networking with participants and Coach Masters Academy faculty from around the world was a great experience.

For Fortude and myself, the new normal has been a time of growth. We turned challenges into opportunities that would help expand our thinking and do things differently.

Written by: 

Oshana Dias

Global SVP, Human Resource, Fortude