Culture can and needs to evolve with time: Ruchi Bhalla, Pitney Bowes
Ruchi Bhalla is Country Head - Delivery Centers, India & Vice President Human Resources (Asia Pacific) at Pitney Bowes.
Ruchi comes with over 20 years of experience as a talent leader, with over a decade at Pitney Bowes. Prior to Pitney Bowes, she worked with Fiserv and RFSI.
In her present role, Ruchi is responsible for driving the strategic agenda to scale India Delivery Centers as well as developing and implementing the HR agenda for India & APAC region. Under Ruchi's leadership, Pitney Bowes has been named one of India's Top 25 Best Workplaces 2020 by the Great Place to Work Institute and one of the Top 5 Companies in Diversity (SMEs) 2021 by Jobsforher. She has also been named one of the Top 5 Diversity Champions (SMEs, Startups) 2021 by Jobsforher.
In conversation with People Matters, Ruchi talks about the role of leadership in strengthening transparency and trust in the evolving workplace construct, investing in intelligent workplace technologies, enhancing the wellness quotient through sustainable organizational shifts and the three key values crucial to envisioning the workplace of the future.
Read on for highlights from the interaction.
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?
There is not necessarily one single path from the pandemic.
From a new-found energy while working from home to an eagerness to return to the collaboration of the office, employees and organizations are experiencing the pandemic reality differently.
The continued success of an organization relies on a high-performance culture built over years and ability to team effectively across regions and time zones. As organizations continue to prioritize the health and safety of their employees, values of flexibility, teaming and collaboration become important as we collectively envision the workplace of the future. Organizations also need to have the technology and the tools to foundationally support this way of working and these can be refined over time.
During the second wave of the pandemic, we went through a challenging time as a country and community, many organizations went out of their way to be there for their employees and extended support to whatever extent possible. It is during these trying times that an organization’s value and culture comes through, making employees feel a deeper sense of belonging and camaraderie, the core values that are the beating heart of an organization.
How are you working towards creating a vibrant hybrid working culture and solidifying shared beliefs across a distributed workforce?
Built on a foundation of innovation, Pitney Bowes has a long history of flexibility that has positioned us well since the outbreak of the pandemic. Health and well-being of our team is paramount, and we’ve been following the science and adapting our approach based on the local situations. We’ve been an agile workplace for a long period of time, with many of our employees working remotely much before the pandemic. This new way of working is a step in that continuum.
Our objective for the future is to create a smooth and safe transition plan for offices to reopen and there is ongoing work to envision what the workplace of the future will look like. It is an opportunity to move forward in a different way.
We’ve been spending a lot of time working with leaders, benchmarking with other companies, listening through a series of focus groups and surveys to our people to understand what they think about the office of the future and what their expectations are as we go forward.
How can leaders ensure a sustainable cultural alignment, whether digital or in-person?
How the workplace of the future is configured will be responsive to the workforce and cannot be dogmatic. It’s important to build on the learnings from the pandemic.
With a strong foundation, culture can and needs to evolve with time. Leaders need to be agile and empathetic and aware of their employees evolving needs as they adapt to the circumstances at hand. For example, many organizations may have had a flexible work culture, but the pandemic forced a fully virtual work environment that they may not have been well prepared for.
Being aware of changing employee needs, adapting policies, and adopting new tools and technologies is the key to keeping the culture relevant and aligned regardless of digital or in-person interaction.
As hybrid emerged to steadily become the new norm, what are some of the major shifts in your employee experience strategy?
All our policies have always been centered around our people and we’ve been agile and flexible. Through the pandemic, our approach has been to build on our core principals. COVID-19 has led to a fully virtual work environment and like other organizations, we too have had to adapt to the new normal of remote working, employee engagement, hiring, and team building.
Hiring will and already has become location agnostic and continuous upskilling and learning will become even more important than before.
What role can technology play in the ongoing evolution and adoption of a hybrid work culture?
Organizations need to have the right tools and technology to ensure secure, flexible, and seamless collaboration across distributed teams that ultimately creates meaningful employee experiences. The IT team needs to move beyond simply managing IT to leveraging technology to create value for the business. Also, in this new reality, where business models keep changing and technologies such as AI, IoT, Blockchain, Big Data, and Cloud gain more prominence, upskilling or reskilling the current workforce can steer organizational success in the right direction, and this should be a key priority of business leaders.
By investing in ‘intelligent workplace’ technologies, businesses can make their workplace smarter and prepare for a long-term future hybrid workplace where more employees than ever will be working from home.
How can leaders strengthen transparency and trust within the confines of digital boundaries?
Reiterating trust in employees will go a long way to keep them engaged and motivated. The second wave of the pandemic saw organizations going above and beyond for their employees by providing aid in the form of life-saving medical equipment, vaccination drives, and Employee Assistance Support.
By having open channels of communication where employees can express their concerns, like a 24/7 helpline, leaders stay connected with the pulse of their organization and adapt to their changing needs.
Keeping employees in the know about what’s going on in the company, how it impacts them, and acknowledging their contributions to the company’s success is the key to building lasting and trusted relationships.
The prolonged crisis has severely impacted employee well-being. What can employers do differently to bring about a meaningful and sustainable shift in the wellness quotient?
Since the pandemic, organizations have been made aware of a whole new spectrum of challenges, including mental health of employees and their families. A long-drawn crisis like this negatively impacts overall well-being and ultimately employee productivity and team culture. Mental health is an important factor in our overall well-being and as essential as physical health. Organizations must invest in mental health & well-being programs, these are now critical for maintaining employee morale, resilience in the face of organizational change, and innovation.
At Pitney Bowes, we have a dedicated 24/7 helpline and 24/7 free-confidential counseling services for employees and their families. We organize regular workshops for employees by mental health professionals and in May this year we hosted a ‘Mental Well-being Week’ and held themed sessions by industry experts, special guest speakers, and our internal wellness team.
In your opinion, what are the cornerstones of building an inclusive and high-performing digital work culture?
Only talent matters. Pitney Bowes has a long-standing commitment to ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ and has been an equal opportunity employer for a century now, which continues into today’s new remote/hybrid workplace era. We hire the best talent regardless of geography, generation, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, thoughts and communication styles. While this rich mix distinguishes us as individuals, it also enhances our business to give our clients the best value. Our ability to look at things from diverse perspectives helps us drive innovation and success.