Neha Mantoo is Head of Talent Acquisition in India for Better.com.
Neha comes with 13 years of Human Resources (HR) experience in the areas of talent acquisition, employee engagement/ connect, HR business partnering, talent management and retention with fast growth ecommerce startups, Big4 consulting firms and top IT service providers.
Prior to Better.com, Neha led University recruitment and engagement for Uber. Her role also involved handling leadership recruitments and scaling teams from scratch in India and South Asia. Before Uber, Neha led talent acquisition at nearbuy.com. She also worked with KPMG and TechMahindra in the early stages of her career.
In conversation with People Matters, Neha discusses the responsibility of leaders and primary caregivers to find a new sense of empathy, solidifying shared beliefs across a distributed workforce, creating a high involvement hybrid work culture and leveraging technology to bridge the experience gap for new hires
As companies start trudging on in the COVID-stricken world with new working arrangements, how are the realizations of 2020 impacting their core values and culture?
COVID-19 has created a moment of truth for company culture - leaders are rightly posing questions around how much their actions reflect culture and core company values.
As we move into a whole new paradigm of work, company culture can no longer be looked at as a business imperative, rather as a human imperative and strategic priority.
We must make it our responsibility as leaders and primary caregivers to find a new sense of empathy, by listening to our employees, quickly adapting and remaining flexible. Core company values and culture can no longer be seen in isolation, or compartmentalized boxes. The mental and physical impact of 2020-21 is pushing companies forward with energy to thrive, upending the way we look at hyper-personalization, intentionality, flexibility and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) in a whole new light.
How are you working towards creating a vibrant hybrid hiring culture and solidifying shared beliefs across a distributed workforce and talent pool?
The sooner companies discover new capabilities, be it remote work or quick strategic pivots, the better they will be able to emerge from the challenges of the pandemic. Just as we aim to provide a superior experience for our customers, we believe in doing the same for our people across geographies. We believe in the need to reflect the communities in which we live and work, and our hiring culture is a representation of the same. Over the past few months, we have had to radically rethink how to perpetuate culture in a hybrid workplace.
In the context of a distributed talent pool or teams which are geographically separated, a huge challenge is closing the social gap.
We have had to think about information sharing, developing effective communication channels, building interpersonal relationships, and creating a high involvement culture. What do our employees need? What connects them to the workplace? What do they find meaningful? Despite the challenges we are collectively facing, it is exciting to think about these changes. I think it will carve the future of work and the workplace.
How can business and talent leaders ensure a sustainable cultural alignment in the hiring and onboarding journey for new hires, whether digital or in-person?
When it comes to hiring it is important to ensure new hires and values are compatible, and in the long run, hiring for culture-alignment and functional-fit is sustainable for any organization. At Better.com, we seek candidates who have a passion to do something new and embrace change - innovation, collaboration and passion are the key tenants of our hiring process. It is important to identify your goals as an employer, have hygiene checks in place, interview for the right fit as well as for capabilities and then use a variety of tools, channels and technologies to help achieve those hiring goals.
At Better.com, apart from looking for the right cultural and functional fit, we also recruit for diversity. We have an above-industry representation of female employees in managerial and supervisory positions, with more than 33% representation of women in this area, as compared to the industry average, which hovers around 20%.
How can leaders strengthen transparency and trust within the confines of digital boundaries?
By being open, relatable, and having honest communication channels with the team which might be spread out globally, leaders can maintain the highest levels of transparency and trust. This also ensures that decision making is inclusive and collaborative.
At Better.com, we steer clear of any top-down approach to decision-making. Through monthly, bi-weekly town halls, Ask-me-Anything sessions with the Founder, Vishal Garg as with Country Head - India, Bhavesh Sharma, we strive to build a sense of belongingness.
Our shared values of co-creation and transparency bring out the best out of our leaders where they own their respective pieces and decision making is decentralized for optimum speed - which in our case is almost lightning fast.
It inculcates a feeling of mutual trust, wherein decision-making is owned by employees at every level. We believe in leading by listening to our people.
As hybrid emerged to steadily become the new norm, what are some of the major shifts in your employee experience strategy?
At the onset of the pandemic we transitioned extremely quickly into remote work. Our people need all the support they can get during such a difficult time and as primary caregivers companies need to step up and be there for their employees and their families. We recently launched a few initiatives to support our people;
- Paid time-off if someone on our team gets impacted by COVID-19. Going a step further, we have also introduced care-giver paid time-off in the event an employees' spouse, parent, child, partner, etc. is ill at home. We are one of the very few firms who are doing this in India.
- Additionally, an exclusive parental concierge service for all parents of employees helps to take care and assist with daily needs, especially during the tough lockdown period.
- Implemented an employee assistance program and dedicated COVID-19 counselling for our employees and their families. Better.com provides 24*7 support, for emotional wellness and mental health support, to all its employees. We have also launched virtual therapy sessions with licensed therapists to help improve overall mental health; counseling is also extended to our employees’ family members. To enable this, we have tied up with an external partner with over 1000+ experts in the panel.
- We are one of the very few firms that cover medical benefits for all immediate family members (spouse + children + parents), and we think this is an important step towards supporting/protecting our people and their families.
- For parents with children, we offer flexible working hours, while ensuring that customers are served while being mindful of schedules. We also offer virtual child-care to all employees worldwide.
What role can technology play in the ongoing evolution and adoption of a hybrid work culture? How can organizations leverage technology to bridge the experience gap for new hires?
While the pandemic has mostly meant job losses and salary cuts across industries and geographies; since the onset of pandemic we have hired over 2000+ employees virtually and on-boarded the brightest minds from college campuses via virtual university recruitment programs.
Providing the best candidate experiences is one of the top most priorities for the organization, especially in the current times which require unfaltering empathy, commitment towards equity, and unwavering commitment towards people.
Particularly given the current context, technology can be used to reinforce the better adoption of a hybrid work culture. By using HRMS tools, pulse surveys, and communication and collaboration tools, businesses can keep track of the pulse of their people to better understand employee satisfaction, engagement levels and emotional well-being.
Our Global Talent Acquisition Management Platform is a single solution used across all our global offices in India & US to facilitate better talent acquisition, onboarding, and assimilation. Using one platform helps us deliver a seamless, heartfelt experience and reinforce our values across key moments that matter to potential candidates and new hires. We had to come together and question how we could make the most of the technologies we have already invested in and what additional investments we need to make.
In your opinion, what are the cornerstones of building an inclusive and high-performing digital work culture?
I think at a time when all of us are struggling through 2021, organizations need to think from an individuals’ perspective and see how they can make well-being central to their thinking, and not just at the surface level.
The central question that exists now is how can we fill the workforce with energy and drive as we step into the future and plan re-growth strategies.
Creating a high-involvement culture, while at the same time keeping employees focused towards a common purpose are critical to thrive. Most of our growth over the past few years is attributed to the fact that we invested time and resources into customer service, and the well-being of our people as well as building a strong and inclusive company culture. Growing a business includes taking your people along with you as you grow, putting employee experience at the forefront and helping employees navigate times of crisis. We are deeply focused on creating a personalized approach to work, empowering our people to own the future and driving flexible and adaptable workplace strategies.