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TecHRseries Interview with Ankur Ahlowalia, CEO at Korbyt (formerly known as RMG Networks)

“From the employees’ perspective, you have to make the workplace safe for them to return, while adopting a flexible mindset towards remote work,’’ feels Ankur Ahlowalia, CEO at Korbyt while sharing a few thoughts on creating better employee experiences at work during a global health crisis. Catch the complete conversation:

 

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Tell us a little about yourself Ankur …you’ve recently joined RMG Networks: what are some of the things you are most looking forward to in your role here?

I’ve been in the high-tech software industry for over 20 years. What excites me about this industry is being able to be surrounded by smart, innovative technologists. I have a customer first mindset and a real passion for how technology helps companies drive business outcomes. What I’m really excited about now is how our Korbyt platform leverages cutting edge technology – like predictive analytics and AI – that can really change how our customers engage with their employees and customers and also change how our industry thinks about digital signage, desktop and mobile employee communications.

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We’d love to hear about RMG Network’s journey the last few months, during the midst of the Covid-19 lockdowns and how the team and business is adjusting to the new normal now? What are some of the biggest changes to structures and processes the Covid-19 has led to?

We have offices in Dallas and outside of London, UK. When COVID-19 lockdowns started back in the Spring, we pulled together the leadership team with HR and put into place a set of protocols and procedures designed to ensure the safety of our employees and visitors. We followed advice from the CDC and OSHA in the US and the Ministry of Health in the UK. Office capacities were reduced in both locations and we provided staff in the office with masks, sanitizer and new instructions on distancing.

Most importantly, we communicated as transparently and frequently as possible with employees and team leaders to make sure they understood the protocols and knew their responsibilities. We held weekly check-ins with leaders to communicate updates from HR and monitor the status of all teams. Of course, we wanted to know if anyone was affected personally, but also if family members were affected and if there was anything we could do to help employees adjust and cope to this new normal.

Luckily, being a software company who provides a communication platform, we were already well equipped to transition to remote work. Probably the biggest challenge was the emotional and psychological toll that we all felt as our routines were totally changed. Adopting a flexible mindset on working routines and interruptions and increasing video calls and quick 1:1’s has helped to maintain employee bonds that are so important for productive work.

In what ways have you seen B2B companies respond during this pandemic; what are some of the top fundamentals you feel companies should keep foremost in mind as they work through the new normal or as some plan their return to work and reopening strategies.

The most obvious is that many employees were sent home in accordance with local ordinances and to keep them safe.

We’ve seen some promotional and trial terms for B2B software offerings get extended – both to try and create demand but also as a genuine effort to try and help businesses hit really hard by reduced demand for their services. There’s a real trickle-down effect at play in the market.

And communication really went into hyper-drive. Many of our customers are HR and Comms professionals and what we’ve been hearing from them is that there’s no such thing as over-communication suddenly and that omni-channel employee messaging became a requirement and not a nice-to-have. A huge focus emerged immediately to communicate safety protocols, workplace and workspace changes, reminders to wash hands, wear masks, social distance and to stay home if sick.

We have customers in healthcare, pharmaceutical, and supply chain industries and many of their employees could not work remote but also don’t have easy access to email all day. For them, channels like digital signage and mobile became as critical as email and desktop messaging is for the remote information workers.

From a customer communication perspective, we’ve seen a change in messaging and marketing language and tactics. Before COVID, a lot of focus was on attention grabbing language that creates a sense of urgency. Post-COVID, what we’ve learned studying the industry and talking with customers is that messaging that focuses on safety, gratitude, and achievement are driving higher response rates than urgent promotional language. I think this approach has learnings for HR communications also.

How can companies capitalize and create better work experiences during this global downtime – can you share a few innovative ways in which leading tech, B2B and B2C companies have been doing the last few months? Also, how would you advise companies to use their HR Tech stack to create these enhanced experiences during this world crisis?

One of the innovative technologies we’ve seen our customers deploy are the digital signage entry kiosks that can do everything from keep track of occupancy and send alerts when the space is nearing capacity to the thermal cameras that take temperatures and use AI-based software to scan for presence of face masks. This tech helps keep the workplace safe and also reinforces protocols you have in place.

On the purely emotional support side for the newly remote workers, we’ve seen an increase in personal communication between employees and no-work talk standups and check-ins. We encourage this and we’ve heard others are as well as best practices to build remote team camaraderie and trust and just offer additional emotional support. These are tough times for all of us.

In terms of tech stack usage, certainly using technology to survey employees and deliver recognition call outs and kudos is a best practice.

We’ve talked to some businesses who have launched new intranets post-COVID. What they’ve found is in order to drive adoption and usage, they’ve had to leverage additional channels like text campaigns, mobile apps, desktop apps (not just email) to really effectively communicate with certain employee demographics. For example, younger workers prefer more social channels where they can provide real-time feedback on messages, and HR needs to embrace those.

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What are some best practices you’d advise HR teams to follow in the new normal and beyond as the future of work changes; when it comes to employee management and employee engagement and setting new processes.

Adopt a multi or omni-channel communication strategy and a toolkit for HR to be effective at employee communication and engagement. Develop – or revise if you already have one – your work from home policies to take into consideration new WFH arrangements.

I encourage leaders and managers – in HR and all departments – to adopt a flexible mindset with regards to remote work but also having well defined and documented protocols and procedures in place to keep the workplace safe.

It’s important to remind employees that they have access to benefits that can help them through tough times. And don’t underestimate the value in a video call or check in that has nothing to do with the business. The personal touch points that leaders and managers make with team members is critical to build trust and make sure employees have what they need to succeed.

Across industries, and our business included, many employees want to come back to the workplace. But you have others, and this is unfortunate, who even with all the safeguards in place will say they’re not comfortable returning. These cases have to be taken seriously and approached with the employee’s health and safety in mind. You may have to make exceptions for certain employees – either for physical or mental health reasons – for an extended period until a vaccine is widely available.

Focus on your company culture and make sure your website reflects what you are doing to recruit and retain top talent post-COVID. Share stories of at home workers if you can. For retention, we are seeing a lot of customers also promote their e-learning programs and giving employees access to e-learning goes a long way.

A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?

Put your employees in the center and focus on their wellbeing and safety first and foremost. Having an open-door policy and being available to employees is more important than ever – even more so now that many workers are remote.

You need to make the new work experience really easy for employees. Employees used to getting direct contact from leaders or managers in the office now have to rely on other channels. Reminders and touch-points delivered through mobile messaging, texts, online surveys are huge in keeping remote workers connected.

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Perhaps most important, we can’t let the pandemic monopolize our time over other key issues facing employers and employees. Issues like diversity and fairness in the workplace shouldn’t take a backseat because of COVID-19. Now more than ever we need the brightest minds all working together to get us through these times. I hope we’re not forgetting there were challenges for many groups before the pandemic that haven’t gone away.

Korbyt

Korbyt, a global leader in the digital signage technology industry, helps businesses increase productivity, efficiency, and engagement through digital messaging. By combining best-in-class software, hardware, business applications and services, Korbyt offers a single point of accountability for integrated data visualization and real-time performance management. The company is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with additional offices worldwide.

Ankur Ahlowalia is the CEO of Korbyt (formerly known as RMG Networks). A passionate technology leader, Ankur joined Korbyt to drive profitable growth by enabling customers to quickly adopt digital signage cloud platforms that are fundamental to today’s digital experience. Ankur recently served as Chief Revenue Officer at SecureAuth, a provider of security identity software, where he delivered successful outcomes in enterprise cloud software transformational programs. Prior to SecureAuth, Ankur held senior leaderships at Apttus and Saba Software. He is a graduate of the Motorola Business Leadership Program and holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.