Pernod Ricard's Shireen Maharaj on creating moments of conviviality 

Shireen says it's important to find creative ways for employees to stay connected. 

Amidst the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, HR leaders have had to find ways to remain productive during the lockdown. As custodians of the people agenda within organisations, these leaders have had to oversee a transition that they, in most cases, were not prepared for. Remote working has long been one of the main tenets of the future of work, but few companies would have imagined or even planned to migrating the entire workforce to this format.

Now that it’s been forced upon them, organisations have to adapt, and HR leaders are being looked at for guidance. Because, even if work can be done from home, organisations still have to be mindful of the employee experience, control over which is significantly lost when everybody is in their own homes with family and other responsibilities competing for their attention.

The connection with colleagues is one thing that can suffer. As Pernod Ricard HR director for Sub-Sarahan Africa Shireen Maharaj says, being away from the building means missing out on catch-up chats around the coffee machine and other spontaneous engagement opportunities between colleagues. 

“We have a team check-in every morning in which I make sure that we don’t only talk about what we want to accomplish work-wise but also to find how everybody is doing personally…have a bit of a laugh and share information that is unrelated to work. And sometimes that conversation takes up more time than we want but it’s extremely important that people are still able to connect,” says Shireen, adding that she also has a list of people within her team that she checks in with personally because she knows they are single and stay alone. 

As an organisation that provides premium alcohol, Pernod Ricard is a people-oriented business and to maintain that sense of connection the company strives to create moments of conviviality via virtual sessions in which, for example, some of their brand ambassadors teaching anybody who is interested how to make cocktails.

“We have drinks evenings where we virtually share aperitifs and things like that so we always try to find moments where we can be sociable as a business and that has been very helpful in keeping us connected and managing stress and anxiety,” she says.

This article is based on insights and contributions from CHRO SA's weekly Community Conversations.