Former Vice President - Global Growth & Global Business Head at Zomato, Bhavesh Sharma, has over 20 years of experience in driving management, sales growth, strategy, deal shaping, product development and entrepreneurship in the finance and technology industries.
Sharma is currently, Country Head - India for Better.com, a digital mortgage company where he is responsible for taking care of all the facets of the business in India.
Prior to Better.com, he was a part of the leadership team at Zomato, where he was looking after Zomato's top line growth, launched new products and drove strategic global partnerships. In the past, Sharma also served as Founder & CEO of InsuringIndia, worked in advisory roles at Raxa, and held executive positions at JP Morgan in London, American Express and Financial Times.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, he shares his views on transparency as a cultural pillar and highlights what key values organizations must focus on to build a scalable culture across geographies.
Having worked with organizations like Zomato, Raxa and others, across industries as well as across geographies, what issues do you believe the global workforce is most concerned about?
While bringing back talent to the country and understanding the effects of automation are concerns for the workforce, an aspect organisations miss out on is closing the skills gap. Upskilling, retraining of the workforce and constant learning are of great value to employees and making these aspects a priority help find the right talent with the right skill set. It is important to give clarity on individual, team, and company goals, and putting people development at the centre of everything.
What are the most common people challenges you face when it comes to creating a value-driven culture?
While it is overlooked by a lot of organisations which are restructuring or figuring out ways to improve their company culture, self-management, if prioritised improves employee engagement and in turn creates a values-driven culture. A lot of the time, conversations about company culture occurs from a top-down approach rather than from a bottom-up approach.
Employees are passionate about organisational values and putting people at the centre of this process encourages better implementation of a value-driven culture.
At Better.com we imagine a future with entrepreneurial employees all spearheading development in specific areas so designated managers aren’t needed. Instead of passing ideas up a command chain, team members share informal collaborations that naturally form teams to achieve milestones. Once a value-driven culture is created, the communication of those shared values across teams, functions and roles is what’s most important for a company’s growth.
What cultural values do you think are critical for an organization to thrive in a digital era?
Creating a high-involvement culture, while at the same time keeping employees focused towards a common purpose/ goal are critical to thrive in the digital age.
How can leaders build a scalable culture that can be replicated across geographies?
In the context of global teams which are geographically separated, a massive challenge is closing the gap on social distance. I think it all boils down to developing effective interactions and communication channels with your peers and remind the team that they have a shared/ common purpose.
What is key to building a digital-ready culture?
The ability to be collaborative throughout teams, functions and roles is key. Sharing learnings and insights fosters co-creation between team members and results in better progress and inches the team closer towards the desired goal(s) in an efficient manner. The other aspect which is tied in closely with building a digital ready culture is transparency. Open communication channels foster learning, provoke conversations and bring everyone at par on the key developments. Open offices with no private workspaces or cubes, supports a team’s transparent philosophy.
Speaking of transparency, can you share an instance from your career where you sensed a lack of transparency and implemented it as a practice? What challenges did you face and what was the impact of bringing in transparency?
This was many years earlier at one of the large Fortune 500 companies. We had to change and completely redesign the client relationship team; in other words lay off nearly 250 people. The project plan was to inform employees as close to the time as possible; minimize the impact. I felt exactly the opposite – give them enough time and treat them like adults and with respect. It took pretty much everything to convince the SVP, to allow me to do what I wanted, be transparent. We set out the guiding principles, which were:
- Be honest and treat employees like adults: It always works in the long run and we were surprised by how well the people responded.
- Do not fake it: If we’re not sure of it, say so. Remaining transparent and admitting that you don’t know everything is always much better than half truths
- Change the filters: In most places the way the upper management is treated, is very different than the rest of the employees. Try and minimise, and remove this gap. Pass more information down the chain (and know when to keep something to yourself)
The change went well, the impacted staff had enough time to look for other opportunities, minimising the impact to their families and loved ones.
How can leaders help their employee’s transition from being risk-averse to becoming open to taking risks in the digital age?
A lot of the time risks are associated with failure but it is important to get the team ready to embrace risks and give them the freedom to fail. In order to fuel growth, new tools and behaviours need to be adopted and they all come with their own assumed risks. Without risk, we can’t grow. Failure is natural and we believe key learnings from past failures should be embraced and discussed to assess critical learnings and the best path for moving forward. That is an underlying core principle within Better.com - it doesn’t matter what level you are, be it intern or CEO - the best idea wins, no matter what level you are.
What would be your advice be for leaders as they prepare to build the workforce of tomorrow?
Oftentimes the most important answers are in plain sight, and we usually always ignore them when we go out looking for complex convoluted solutions. I’m surprised how little attention and budget generally goes the way of the People Ops / Human Resources teams. An organisation is a sum of its people, and certainly not a bunch of machinery put together.
It is really quite simple, spend the most time getting the right people, give them the tools and resources required and set them up for success.
Get out of their way, literally. It surprisingly always works!