Based on your experiences, how should businesses align their corporate strategies with HR and people solutions?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we quickly learned the importance of agile business models and quickly adapted the same through our remote working setup. But even while working remotely, we continued prioritizing our employees and customers alike.

During the lockdown, we kept updating outdated business processes that hindered our workflow. As a delivery-focused company, we are already people-centric in our business approach, and we extend the same level of fervor toward our employees as well. For instance, getting paid on time was a big hurdle during the initial chaotic months of the pandemic. We implemented solutions that ensured the payroll management processes would move unhinged even if the people in charge were unavailable. This is but one of the instances.

Many other people-focused implementations ensured that our employees were happy, and that helped us better serve our customers across UAE and home-deliver our products, from the purest drinking water to the freshest juices, nutritious foods, and hygiene kits, to the entire UAE. 

What recent initiatives have you undertaken to increase employee engagement in a hybrid work environment?

Since 90 percent of my workforce are frontline workers, they can’t work remotely or in a hybrid environment. However, we took every small and large measure to ensure that our on-field employees feel included and cared for, like our other in-house employees that are now working remotely.  

To start with, we have been engaging with our field employees since the onset of the pandemic, checking up on them, playing online games and quizzes, and ensuring every employee was aware of the company updates, which they greatly appreciated.

“We use an online employee pulse survey system called the Office Vibe. This online feedback tracker sends out five quick questions to all our employees once in two weeks, increasing employee engagement and satisfaction by nine percent..”

Also, since many of our employees could not travel home during global lockdowns to see their families, we ensured they could go home using the annual leaves as soon as the travel restrictions were lifted. We also got our employees’ monthly salaries transferred to their families with the help of our government relations team, saving our employees all the trouble of going to a bank and transferring the money to their loved ones.

What steps do you take to push your company to achieve better leadership goals?

We have a tight-knit leadership team that is passionate about making our business successful. We have been following a succession planning model for the past few years, where our leaders are promoted internally instead of externally hiring. This has been boosting our employees’ morale as they feel their efforts are rightfully appreciated.

To reach this goal, we select and coach our potential future leaders and help them perceive, develop, and achieve our company’s business objectives through meaningful conversations.

What are the technologies that you use for engaging with employees on a daily basis?

A noteworthy mention is the people-first employee experience platform, Officevibe. Their online employee pulse survey tool with a feedback tracker sends out five quick questions to all our employees at once, every two weeks, to gain quick insights. This has been a meaningful investment to increase employee engagement and satisfaction. It helps us check on them and ensure everyone is doing fine. Apart from that, we also ensure that employees are able to talk to our HR team anytime they want, about any query or worry they are facing. 

How have your past experiences in leading communication, learning, and development teams in the UAE helped you serve your role at Masafi today?

My previous role as a communication, learning, and development team leader in a construction company was interesting because it helped me grow as an open and inclusive leader. It was my first stint in the UAE with a company of about 15,000 people, and I had to learn to communicate with different kinds of people quickly. That experience gave me the confidence to communicate with everyone and work together as a team in Masafi.

My prior experience running a behavioral change program in the UK also helped me lead people with more inclusivity.

What words of advice would you share with other leaders?

Leaders think they are supposed to know the answers to everything, but that is not always true. My advice would be to really listen to people around you and talk to them if you need support because a lot of answers come from the people you are around. Reach out to the people in your business if you need help, and don’t ever feel alone because if you are working in an inclusive team, no one is alone.

My other advice would be to keep thinking about leadership development and succession planning continuously because it might keep shifting, but it has a firm spot in determining every business’s future. 

Having worked in the Middle East for 15 years across both FMCG and construction industries, Emma has extensive experience across the region and the people, culture and employee engagement field. Emma joined Masafi in 2018, and is a natural leader and problem solver, her ability to see solutions has seen the business grow through a pandemic, with the key feature being people and employee engagement.