Blackhawk Network Holdings Inc. is a privately held company that operates in the prepaid, gift card and payments industries. It supports solutions, technology, management and distribution of branded value such as gift cards, telecom and financial service products.
Radhakrishna Venkateshwaran, VP, Head of Strategic Development Centre, Product & Engineering, Blackhawk Network, talks about the future of work. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: How are you dealing with the COVID-19 situation? What plans have you put in place?
Radhakrishna Venkateshwaran: The COVID-19 outbreak has affected all facets of our lives and we must acknowledge that we are in truly unprecedented times. Yet the strength and resilience of those in our industry give us great confidence that we will get through this together. At Blackhawk, our employees’ health and safety is of utmost priority. Aside from the business continuity plans we have in place, for employees in our Bengaluru office, we are offering online learning modules and informal virtual team catch-ups among other things to keep employee morale up.
Across the organization, we have launched an employee app as well as a bi-weekly employee newsletter to help everyone stay connected and well-informed of important updates. These communication vehicles also include useful tips on managing personal health and wellness during the crisis.
DQ: Are you giving employees more control over their schedules?
Radhakrishna Venkateshwaran: We are proud of the seamless transition our employees have made to working remotely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that many are juggling additional responsibilities during the day in addition to their workloads, such as homeschooling children. We are sensitive to these unique circumstances and in general, our employees are given the flexibility they need to balance their work and home lives in a way that works for them.
DQ: How are you assessing on learnings from enforced experiments around WFH?
Radhakrishna Venkateshwaran: We have learned that the majority of our workforce has been able to successfully work remotely without hindering productivity. The current situation has further underscored the importance of leveraging multiple communication channels and online collaboration tools to stay connected.
DQ: This is a challenging time for managers. What advice would you give them?
Radhakrishna Venkateshwaran: In these unprecedented times, managers need to be compassionate listeners. I would advise managers to be tolerant, embrace change and be open-minded when evaluating work.
DQ: How does work/life balance work in a crisis like this?
Radhakrishna Venkateshwaran: COVID-19 has led to sudden shift in the dynamics of workforce behavior, with companies shifting to work-from-home arrangements in an extremely short period of time. While work–life balance can look different depending on the individual, the common thread is the ability to prioritize health and wellness—both physical and mental.
To help facilitate this, we have begun conducting some online activities such as birthday celebrations, online fitness sessions, internal training, and regular catchups. Besides recognizing employees on social media platforms, we are also providing tipsto cope with working in isolation and sending out emailers regularly to keep our employees updated.
DQ: How are you now facilitating digital work?
Radhakrishna Venkateshwaran: As COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of working remotely, strong internal communication is more important than ever. Thanks to the modern technology that keeps us united, we no longer have a reason to limit the number of participants we invite to our organizational development initiatives. To make our business operations seamless, we are regularly in touch through video conferences, chat applications and internal social media channels. Our employees are empowered with digital tools to continue to do their jobs and collaborate and support each other on a regular basis to drive the best results possible.
DQ: How are the latest technologies going to redefine workplace?
Radhakrishna Venkateshwaran: We have witnessed dramatic change in the workplace—from workforce to work style—and this is set to accelerate the digital transformation journey further, with technology continuing to be a majorly disruptive force in the daily meeting experience. We foresee the environments being controlled by interconnected Internet of Things (IoT) devices turning into reality not only for us, but corporates worldwide.
Workplace technology is expected to stay abreast of the consumer technology that employees are used to. It is imperative that organizations keep pace with this change and bring in intuitive, experience-enhancing solutions to improve productivity and engagement.
DQ: How do you plan for a future of ‘decent digiwork’?
Radhakrishna Venkateshwaran: The impact of COVID-19 has been distressing for many organizations and employees. Yet, as cases begin to plateau and the curve appears to be flattening in places like Bengaluru, we will have to shift our focus from surviving the crisis in silos to achieving integration at work. Our Business Continuity Team is working to ensure that when the time comes to reinstate our workforce, a safe, healthy, and decent digiwork environment is provided to our employees. We are already studying best-practices to address the future of the digital workforce and we aim to streamline the concerns and preferences of our digiworkers involved by putting appropriate policies in place.