Naveen Bhateja, whose experience in HR spans several decades, has led HR teams in well-known and multinational companies including JP Morgan Chase and Amazon.
Now, in his current role at Medidata — a company he joined as Chief People Officer in December 2018 — Bhateja leads all aspects of human resourcing including recruitment, workplace solutions, and diversity and inclusion.
Medidata is a cloud-based SaaS company operating in the life sciences field; focusing on clinical trials for drug development and discovery. It’s not a new company, in fact, it’s been around for approximately two decades and it made headlines last year after it was acquired by Dassault Systems.
We spoke with Bhateja about culture, growth, and tech transformation in the age of COVID-19. We also asked him to weigh in on our recently launched ‘Why HR Projects Fail’ report, which found that a staggering 84% of initiatives had been unsuccessful.
Change management matters more than ever
Bhateja also shared his opinion on “Change Matters,” one of UNLEASH’s Eight Golden Rules for project success.
“Change management is even more relevant now as the speed of change has been accelerated,” Bhateja told UNLEASH, highlighting how this transformation spanned the professional and professional spheres.
“If I look at it from a personal lens perspective … everyone’s gone through a lot of change this year.”
Indeed, 2020 has certainly tipped the world upside down. As COVID-19 began spreading across the world, businesses had to change the way they operated at little, or no, warning — and HR teams bore the brunt of this overnight transformation.
Bhateja’s top tips
So, the question is, how can the C-suite and HR teams ensure that employees are supported through this change?
Bhateja says that the first thing you need to do is to have a clear strategy. This will help you implement new digital solutions and technologies to ensure that employees aren’t overwhelmed.
It’s important to acknowledge immediate, short, and long-term challenges and factor these into your thought process and strategy. Your strategy also needs to be inclusive and work for every single one of your employees.
Communication is also key. Employees need to know what’s coming their way and why. Put yourself in your workers’ shoes and make sure you are transparent about the incoming changes and the expectations that arise. Empathy is crucial.
Leverage your network. Reach out to other professionals, both inside and outside your business, and share challenges and knowledge.
“These are difficult times and there isn’t a playbook that exists. That was my realization failure early on. Use your network and continue to help and support each other, learn, share best practices. Learn what others are doing, you don’t have to solve everything alone. And, this also includes leveraging the collective intelligence within the business. When you engage your employee base, you can come up with more accurate and appropriate solutions that matter and that will therefore stick,” Bhateja added.
Sharpen your skills around empathy and compassion. Acknowledge the fact that people will deal with change in different ways. Be aware of others’ circumstances and treat your employees with kindness and understanding.
“You can never have enough of that [empathy and compassion], particularly when you’re facing unprecedented change and times like this,” noted Bhateja.
Planning for the future
With planning for the new year well underway, Bhateja is right to point out that several questions remain unanswered.
News of effective COVID-19 vaccines are coming thick and fast, and it’d be tempting to assume that most employees will want to return to work as soon as possible — but that may well not be the case.
Some will want to return to the office as soon as they are inoculated, others may want to wait until more is known about the vaccine. It’s also possible that many employees may refuse the vaccine altogether. So, the key here is to plan for all scenarios.
One will have to reimagine the future of work, Naveen said. In a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, he believes that leaders will need to scale themselves and to improve on skills like empathy, resilience, compassion, and the ally-ship that we’ve witnessed through the racial injustice and civil discourse in society.
“Companies will naturally have to evolve their HR strategies to support both virtual and on-site employees, including creating the ‘digital watercooler’ opportunities for employees to connect to support mental health.” Naveen also believes that mental health will continue to be a focus and gain even more momentum than it has done this year.
Naveen believes digital transformation will continue to accelerate and is curious about how the industry will be able to use data, AI, machine learning to deliver more HR products and services.
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