For us, wellness programs are a combination of experiences and learning: Providence India’s Madhulika Vedula
Madhulika Vedula leads Human Resources for Providence’s Global Innovation Center in Hyderabad, India. Partnering closely with the business, Madhulika is driving the people strategy for nurturing a robust and highly engaged talent base to support the global vision of health for a better world. As Providence India accelerates its efforts towards healthcare digital transformation, Madhulika’s workforce goals will build an authentic and inclusive work culture with resilient talent deeply involved in the organisation’s vision and purpose.
With two decades of rich experience in all facets of Human Resources spread across leadership roles at Deloitte, Bank of America, and niche firms like T. V. Rao Learning Systems, Madhulika’s portfolio spans business integration, organisation design, workforce and performance strategy and HR consulting & research. A strong champion of diversity, equity and inclusion, Madhulika’s strength lies in building cultures of excellence and high values. In conversation with People Matters, she shares her take on designing accessible and inclusive wellness programs, measuring their impact, creating sustained change and more.
What key talent trends impact how we design employee wellness programs today? What have been some of the key focus areas for Providence, India?
Today, employee wellness is a complex synergy of employees’ personal aspirations and the organisational ecosystem functioning around the individual. Since the pandemic, employees have reset family, self and growth priorities. Purpose-driven careers, a values-based culture, and the flexibility to pursue their personal interests are all priorities for them today. Total health – physical, mental, and social health – is also vital. Employees want to leverage benefits, time and connections to fulfil these.
For Providence India, our organisation’s employee wellness program is designed to keep this holistic life cycle in mind – both the tangibles and intangibles. As a healthcare technology organisation, we make whole-person care a core priority for our caregivers. We have a “caregiver first” approach in building our benefits around mental health and well-being, with global mental health awareness and support programs and a benefits plan to emphasise self-care, health and wellness, apart from the tangibles.
The success of any wellness initiative lies a lot in enabling access and inclusion. So how do you ensure that your wellness programs meet the needs of all sections of the workforce?
All our programs are with our employees – whom we call caregivers – in mind, hence the term “caregiver first”. DEI is part of our organisational charter, and all our programs, policies and benefits are designed to be inclusive as well as flexible enough for caregivers to customise them to their own needs. For example, we have a wellness benefits program which caregivers can leverage for anything from meditation apps to gym memberships to nutrition counselling. In addition, we have a lot of support programs, from parenting to women’s mentoring to building awareness of disabilities, both visible and invisible. We began operating in India at the start of the pandemic, and our organisation has grown through these times. The programs we have built were very focused on supporting our remotely located caregivers and their families through these difficult times, so building flexibility and accessibility regardless of location and situation was paramount.
What is the role of leadership in championing the cause of employee well-being and wellness? What are some of the initiatives that leaders have taken up at Providence?
The roles of leaders require the resilience of mountaineers leading treks, showing the way to their teams and helping them along the journey to reach every milestone – and there are many. Our Providence India leadership team strongly supports well-being in the workplace, and each takes ownership of what that means for their teams, be it no-meeting Fridays or friendly wellness challenges. Leaders value and respect a caregiver’s personal time off and are very supportive of any wellness support needed by employees. Our country head is a strong proponent of mental health and drives this as a focus area through multiple live conversations and communications with caregivers, and has ensured that we as an organisation enable the resources and support systems for the same. We also have a strong culture of nurturing inclusion, and our leaders help create an environment of acceptance and authenticity in this space. Our leaders practice. Leaders understand that wellness directly impacts engagement, retention, and business results; wellness is innate to what we do versus being a good-to-have focus.
How are you measuring the impact of your wellness programs? How are you ensuring that there is real, meaningful and positive change due to these wellness frameworks?
For us, wellness programs are a combination of experiences and learning. From a plethora of benefits to sensitisation on varied wellness elements to learning experiences of personal interests, growth and collective wellness, it is all-encompassing when we focus on wellness. Creating spaces to talk openly about mental health has strengthened our endeavour to build a more authentic workplace. Our impact measurement encompasses employee feedback after key programs are run, engagement and participation in campaigns, annual caregiver feedback surveys that also measure employee satisfaction with our wellness programs, mental health check-ins, and employee tools to track wellness. Our effort to create meaningful impact comes from keeping the interventions simple and relevant to our workforce demographics, be it driving buddy programs to help each other succeed or creating forums to share stories of impact or perspective. We use all these to improve the wellness journey we offer our caregivers continuously.
Finally, what would be your advice to leaders as they increasingly prioritise employee well-being?
What is the one thing that leaders must start doing immediately for themselves? It’s critical how leaders operate and behave at all times, given well-being is so much about practising to help emulate wellness. It is a lot about how leaders show up at work. Are they balancing their personal time, valuing their health, and, most importantly, being willing to share and be vulnerable about their personal journeys? One thing that leaders can start immediately is conversations with their teams on how each one looks at well-being and what they value. It has to be woven into every key coaching conversation that a leader has to drive critically.