Jobs are getting hybridised: Manu Wadhwa

Jobs are getting hybridised: Manu Wadhwa

Manu Wadhwa, CHRO, Sony Pictures Networks India, talks about how the pandemic has led to more agile and futuristic ways of working in the media & entertainment industry and why jobs on the rise are “hybrid”. She also shares how organisations can better engage gig talent and why companies need to solve for culture to navigate the new reality and further disrupt and differentiate.


Which pandemic-induced transformations in the media and entertainment (M&E) industry are likely to extend into the post-pandemic era?


The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed organisations to reinvent their working models. This included a greater adoption of technology, digital platforms, hybrid working models, and a more significant number of gig workers coming into the workforce. At Sony Pictures Networks, employees seamlessly embraced working from home and remote locations. Our new ways of working are more agile, digital-focused, and futuristic.


We successfully executed some transformative projects:


Broadcast Operations on Cloud: We took on an ambitious project during this work-from-home period. By deciding to take all our broadcast operations into the cloud, we managed broadcast and network operations while working remotely. Using technology, we have reduced our dependency on physical offices.


Alternate Work Arrangement (AWA): We introduced a hybrid model of working by aligning roles to work categories basis their requirement for physical infrastructure and collaboration needs. This further made it easy for the organisation to recruit better talent, achieve innovations, and create value for all stakeholders.


Given the dizzying pace of technological disruptions, the job market is becoming more fast-moving and complex than ever. Burning Glass research has found that jobs are expanding to include a hybrid combination of skills that formerly represented separate positions. These jobs call for people to integrate a broad set of skills (both technical and creative, from different disciplines) that often don’t go together. Do you see jobs in the M&E industry becoming “hybridised”?


With changes in content consumption formats, platforms, and the surge towards digital, there has been a rapid shift in the skills needed, and yes, jobs are getting hybridised.


The M&E industry has always put a premium on individuals with the adaptability and ability to think in diametrically opposite directions. To take an example, while we have our research team members who need to be very strong analytically, they also need to have the qualities of the right brain and be creative enough to understand the content and further contribute lateral solutions to content challenges and audience preferences.

With the digital distribution of content, there is a massive demand for those who can work seamlessly with technology and be savvy in their area of specialisation, whether it be marketing, content creation, or any other department. In today’s world, anyone without the knowledge of digital text and tools is like a fish out of water.



While organisations in many industries expect gig talent to comprise a larger share of their workforce, few have figured out how to leverage them effectively. The M&E industry has long had more gig workers and artistes than full-time employees. What are your top tips that companies could use to seize the opportunity of the gig economy?


Organisations have been employing independent contractors and gig workers for many years. It is estimated that the industry employs over 2.5 mn gig workers. Here are a few things that can make the working experience truly fulfilling for both the company as well as the gig employee:


Viability and Vitality: Redefine success as a combination of continuity and competition. The gig worker should be enthused with endless possibilities and not be stressed on continuity due to failed projects/risks taken.


Alternative Workers, Mainstream Experience: Focus on the employee experience. Create an environment to get and hold onto the best talent in the competitive landscape.


Goals, Objectives and Aligned Incentives: Keep responsibility areas sharp and have a frank discussion on the objectives of the project and expected outcomes for both parties involved.


Long-term approach: Appoint giggers who are continuous learners and have an agile mindset. Engage with this set of talent and be an employer of choice for future collaboration.


Please share some initiatives taken at Sony Pictures Networks India to support employees and business in today’s pandemic environment.


The pandemic pushed us all into an unfamiliar and isolated work setup. We engaged with our employees via regular connects and pulse surveys which consistently revealed challenges like stretched working hours, connectivity and physical infrastructure issues, and respite from the reality of fluid workdays.


To address these concerns, we launched ‘ACE: Act. Care. Engage.’, our umbrella employee wellbeing brand. Several initiatives were launched, keeping employee-centricity, customisation and agility at the fore.


Flexinfra: We enhanced our mobile and internet allowances so our employees could upgrade their telco plans and continue working seamlessly. We also sent high-end Wi-Fi–enabled headsets for our teams to manage the umpteen MS Teams calls.


Mandies: Employees are now compulsorily required to take 3 leaves per quarter in a calendar year. With the introduction of this policy, we saw a 90% reduction in leaves being taken during these times.


COVID Care: To help with medical expenses, the company sponsored all COVID-19 tests for its employees. We also introduced and enhanced our Mediclaim with a COVID-19 top-up to help with treatment at the best hospitals across the country.


Mind-Aid: In addition to our Employee Assistance Program, we also got in-house counsellors and encouraged our people to prioritise themselves and their mental health.


Zero-Hour and Gratitude Day: These were institutionalised to help our people balance work and life responsibilities.


Leadership Engagement and Amplification Program: We reached out to our people via leadership addresses, online forums, and team-building activities to ensure dialogue and strengthen camaraderie in the virtual world.


Our initiatives positively impacted employees, with many taking to the internal communications platform to express their delight.


Looking back over the past year and all that you have overcome, what’s one lesson from the crisis you’d like to share with HR leaders in the M&E space?


This crisis has its share of lessons. One key aspect that I feel we are all still solving is ‘Culture.’


Culture is a living thing and is central to what we do and how we do things. It must prove its resilience and adaptability, especially in a crisis. Most organisations that have adapted and risen from the crisis have been the ones with solid culture. Today, its definition is expanding as the organisation’s sphere is expanding to include employees’ homes and families where culture is getting co-created.


What worked well for us at SPN in strengthening our culture was increasing leadership communication: honest, empathetic, transparent, and personal. This helped us get a better pulse of our people and remain agile to the organisation’s and our people’s priorities, allowing us to recalibrate our actions from time to time in order to emerge stronger and prosperous.

Ankita Sharma is working as Senior Editor with Human Capital. With 6+ years of experience, she has performed diverse roles across the entire spectrum of corporate HR — from hire to retire.


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