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Seven Questions with Marvoreen Young at Cognizant - Managing Employee Engagement during the Coronavirus

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Marvoreen Young is Senior Manager UK & Ireland Benefits at Cognizant and as such part of the HR team that has been managing the transition from a normal working life to the “New Normal” of working from home and managing a remote workforce on a daily basis. We spoke to her about what Cognizant has been doing and her learnings to date.


How did Cognizant respond to the initial lock-down?


As a technology company we are fairly adaptable at the best of times, so the majority of our staff are already set up for home or remote working. As it goes, the transition from office to home was pretty seamless in this sense. Those who were not set up have been given the technology and support quickly to make this transition and we have put a big focus on ensuring that our clients continue to get the service that they have been used to.

What about managing the softer side such as Employee Engagement?


Obviously, there are cultural and social issues that we are working hard to address. We have a very international and diverse workforce who are reliant on the social side of the business, especially when they first arrive in the UK and are getting settled in. As such, we have been working on trying to maintain this interaction and support. Shelly our Diversity Engagement and Community manager has been busier than ever since the lock-down started.


She has arranged a series of weekly events and community activities that has helped not only maintain the level of social interaction we are all used to, but ensure that no one who is stuck at home on their own goes without social interaction.


What sort of activities and events has the company organised?


From a business perspective we have encouraged all our managers to use video calls for team meetings and we have also given them additional training to ensure they understand the technology but also use it efficiently.


But it has been the social side that has really been amazing. We as a team have been busy organising online events for mental health, fitness, Bingo, yoga, meditation but others have also stepped up. One lady has been running online Zumba classes that have been extremely popular.


However, we also understand the stress that our associates and their families are under at the moment so have also been offering webinars and advice on how to look out for scams, financial wellbeing, insights in the current financial volatility and what it means for savings and pensions. We have managed to get a number of the banks such as HSBC and Barclays to run financial management seminars as well as getting another of our partners Nuffield Health to run a series of well being courses
We are planning 12 weeks at a time for now, and it has been pretty full on!


What about helping your Employees manage their finances?


That’s a good question, and as I mentioned we have organised lots of seminars and offered advice from both internal and external experts. However, we also realise that people have ongoing expenses such as subscriptions through the business and so far we have been able to negotiate freezes with virtually all our providers.


In addition, we are also making everyone aware of the health loans of up to £10,000 we offer every employee no questions asked, that also covers their families. If there is medical support they need to pay for, regardless of what it is, this loan is available.


Also, we have worked closely with our provider Xexec to ensure that the benefits and discounts we are offering employees remain relevant and useful. Such as online shopping discounts and access to local grocery and household services that help people cope with the challenges, we all currently face.

 

How do you think the company has managed the current situation well?


As I mentioned earlier, we have a very flexible workforce who are used to working in our client’s offices or remotely at home, and therefore this was not too much of an adjustment. However, we as a company has certainly risen to the challenge that this has presented us. In particular, the communications from the company to all employees has been great.


Regardless of what the role or position the company has in some form been in contact with hem on a regular basis. Be it inviting them to join events, checking on their health and mental well being or the communication coming from our country manager telling us how the company is coping and the latest updates.


Is there anything you have noticed since the “lock-down” started?


Funnily enough I was talking about this just the other day. Even though this is a highly stressful and unprecedented period of time, I have noticed that people seem to be far nicer and friendlier to each other. Everyone’s primary concerns seem to be the well being of the person or team they are talking to.
Even on the street, people are smiling at each other as they pass and thanking them for making space. I am often wished well on my way and told to stay safe. But its not just in public, on calls with associates, the vibe seems far more genuine and friendly as if we are all in this together – long may this continue!


What advice would you give to other businesses?


I have three main bits of advice; be realistic, be flexible and make sure you have good communication.
This situation is new to everyone and is tough, especially to those who have young kids, elderly or sick family to look after. We all need to be realistic about what can be achieved, and also get used to people being far more flexible with the hours they work. For example, if parents are having to manage home schooling all day we must understand and trust that they will get their work done at the end of the day when the kids have been schooled.


In addition, we are ensuring that there is clear communication from both the top C-level and also the team managers. We know people are worried about the current situation, so we are trying to communicate with all our associates as much as possible to make sure their concerns are addressed and that they feel supported.


We know that this is constantly moving feast, but if we can all focus on those three things then from my experience, I think we will continue to work though this situation, engage and motivate our teams.


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