The concept of hybrid working and providing flexibility so people can balance their work with their personal lives is not new. The HR community has been advocating this for several years with varying degrees of success. Nonetheless, the pandemic has accelerated these discussions and hybrid work was introduced whether businesses were ready for it or not.
LeoVegas Gaming Group’s Head of HR South Stefania Curmi says, “I don’t believe there is a perfect solution here or a ‘one size fits all’ approach that would work in all companies. The extent to which someone prefers to work remotely or from the office is quite personal, and depends on a number of factors including their family situation, their working and leadership style, and even their personality.”
LeoVegas has consulted internally to develop a hybrid way of working that the company will adopt going forward. Ms Curmi says, “we have been very clear that this is a pilot and that we will reassess our plans over time. This situation is new, and we are realistic and open to the fact that we don’t have all the answers yet but need to be agile and ready to adapt as needed. We are excited to welcome people back to the great working spaces in our offices and genuinely believe in the importance of face-toface interaction. At the same time, we are also extremely proud of the way our people have performed while working remotely. A hybrid approach that combines both of these elements is what we believe is best suited to us going forward.”
Globally, the pandemic has seen a spike in mental health challenges. Quarantine, social distancing, and psychological fears such as germaphobia have created higher levels of anxiety. Working remotely has made it much harder to spot the warning signs of mental health issues; employers are faced with a potentially dire situation that needs to be dealt with urgently and carefully. The pandemic has encouraged employers to re-examine the support they give in this area.
Ms Curmi explains, “there has been a great deal of effort made by our leadership team supported by HR to create an environment where mental health and well-being are of the utmost priority, including the revamp of our EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), the organisation of various talks by professionals, and a deeper focus on measuring the engagement of our people.”
How has the pandemic affected onboarding and new joiners? Ms Curmi shares, “it’s more challenging to onboard someone remotely. Engaging with new joiners, demonstrating company culture, and creating a welcoming experience is generally easier to do in person. As a result, employers have had to innovate and try to recreate their onboarding processes remotely.”
A topic that perhaps isn’t being discussed as much and probably should be is the gap we are seeing in on-the-job learning for new joiners. When a person starts a new job, they absorb a lot of information – some of it consciously and some of it subconsciously.
“For instance, you hear your manager deal with a challenging conversation and you learn from that,” Ms Curmi explains, “This sort of learning has decreased with remote working, and its impact will not be felt immediately, but rather over the coming years when our leaders of tomorrow are not properly prepared for their roles due to gaps in skill sets.”
As a result, learning specialists have had to think outside of the box and create an environment where these skills are developed in different ways. A large part of the LeoVegas culture focuses on ‘self-driven’ employees and this has never been more relevant.
“Our people need to really push themselves to seek out opportunities and learning experiences that may have ‘landed in their lap’ prior to the pandemic,” Ms Curmi says.
Anyone within HR or management will know that the most effective way for employers to stay close to their people is to have empowered managers who can support employees as necessary and adapt to their needs in an agile way. Ms Curmi affirms, “this year we launched a redesigned LeoLeadership training programme that extends over a number of sessions and focuses on a wide range of areas including the management of remote teams. Our HR Business Partners have also kept very close to our leaders during these challenging months, in order to coach and support in the best possible way. Developing emotional intelligence and empathy in our leaders continues to be a priority.”
What impact has the pandemic had on creating a sense of culture at LeoVegas? Ms Curmi answers, “the starting point here is the definition of ‘culture’. We have seen a shift in this definition as a result of the pandemic. Perhaps (rightly or wrongly) culture was only perceived as your office space, your social events, etc. However, now, culture is much more focused on the level of trust between leaders and employees, the opportunities for our people to do interesting work, and the level of support received – whether in the office or remotely, from colleagues and leaders. I believe that fostering our sense of culture has never been more important than it is now. At LeoVegas we focus on trust and accountability, chasing improvements in all areas of our work, and just generally making it happen, all while maintaining a great sense of teamwork.”
LeoVegas has revised its benefits approach because of the coronavirus pandemic. One example is the company’s launch of a ‘one month working from anywhere’ benefit that gives its staff the freedom to choose to work from any country remotely for up to one month each year. Ms Curmi says, “since we have a large expatriate community across the Group, this has been received well, as it allows them to spend more time with their loved ones at home. It’s also appealing to our more adventurous employees who love to travel!”
“The pandemic has shown beyond a doubt that we can achieve great business results regardless of where we are located and we feel that this benefit acknowledges that.”
This feature was first carried in the Winter 2021/2022 edition of iGaming Capital magazine, the sister brand to iGamingCapital.mt, both produced by Content House Group.
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