Article: Building an inclusive culture is a continuous journey: Priya Cherian, Chief People Officer, PayU


Building an inclusive culture is a continuous journey: Priya Cherian, Chief People Officer, PayU

In an exclusive interview with People Matters, Priya Cherian, Chief People Officer at PayU talks about building awareness on the diversity and inclusion agenda, the role of technology and ensuring strong feedback mechanisms.
Building an inclusive culture is a continuous journey: Priya Cherian, Chief People Officer, PayU

While companies around the world have realized the benefits of diversity and inclusion, there are key focus areas that need attention. And one among them is the workplace culture. Is the culture of a company welcoming and inclusive to people from diverse backgrounds?

In a conversation with People Matters, Priya Cherian, Chief People officer, PayU talks about the various apsects of culture that are need to move the diversity, equality and inclusion agenda forward. Priya has previously worked with Alibaba, Flipkart, Yahoo among others.

1. How has the last year changed your perspective on D&I – or has it? With increase in remote work and an emerging hybrid workplace model, what are some of the top talent trends you are observing?

If Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) were important before, they are absolutely indispensable now.  In general, the remote working culture has increased acceptance of diversity in hiring. Before the pandemic, hiring was limited to residents of a certain location, but now there is greater flexibility with acceptance of ‘work from anywhere’ culture.  There is also a change in productivity measurement of employees from the ‘clock-in and clock-out’ system to greater emphasis on output measurement.

2. How are you creating awareness around D&I in your organization and are you running any specific programs?

PayU has a Diversity and Inclusion Council headed by the global CEO. There are also nominated regional champions of D&I across countries. In India, PayU has initiatives like Women for Women page on the company intranet, for all female employees to air concerns, network, and support each other. The platform also acts as a pulse checking mechanism for the leadership – to inform them about what training and policies are needed. 

The company also offers several maternity related benefits such a crèche subsidy and a mother’s room in office, which will play a crucial role in maintaining work-life balance once offices reopen. Besides this, PayU also ran initiatives like GuruCool mentorship program which encouraged women to apply for mentorship from senior leaders and Second Innings to support the women returning to the workplace after a break. 

Awareness around D&I initiatives is spread internally through announcements and updates on the intranet and mailers to all the employees. While awareness of diversity initiatives is important, education and understanding of what inclusion really means is critical. PayU has established an inclusive leadership training for all senior leaders and has also made D&I a core part of its leadership framework. The outcome is that all PayU leaders are better prepared to embrace diversity and demonstrate inclusive behaviors in their leadership style.

3. What is the role of an inclusive workplace culture in boosting D&I? And what steps should companies take in order to create an inclusive workplace?

An inclusive workplace culture fosters understanding, encouragement and collaboration in the workplace and thereby fuels increased productivity. There need to be strong feedback mechanisms in place which promote a more open and inclusive work culture. Unless a truly inclusive culture is established, organizations may hire to increase workforce diversity but they will not reap the benefits of this diverse workforce if all employees are not equally enabled to perform and contribute.

4. By increasing the representation of marginal groups at the workplace, what are some of the top challenges you're likely to encounter and how are you dealing with it? 

PayU is focused on encouraging employees to bring their unique perspectives to the table, as that is really critical while making business decisions. There are no major issues associated with increased diversity at the workplace as qualifications and performance are the sole criteria which define success. 

However, building and maintaining an inclusive culture is a continuous journey and so the challenge is to ensure that D&I remain a priority for everyone in the organization continuously. PayU is focused on encouraging employees to bring their unique perspectives to the table, as that is really critical while making business decisions.

5. How is technology helping you in our journey to become an inclusive workplace?

The post-COVID flexible work era will offer an opportunity to those women and men, who are willing to work but are unable to do so because of time or geographic constraints. And technology plays a key role in this. For example, despite remote working constraints, all PayU employees are well-connected from video-conferencing facilities like blue jeans, vpn connections & intranet communities. PayU has end-to-end online recruiting, induction and on-boarding happening seamlessly through these virtual tools. 

Through online workplace communities such as Workplace by Facebook, PayU ensures that teams can stay constantly in touch, share documents and collaborate on projects. Through virtual town-hall meetings, the global and Indian senior leadership teams can engage and interact with employees routinely. Employees are encouraged to create groups and connect on Workplace. For example, there is a group called ‘Humans of PayU’ which chronicles inspirational stories of current employees.

6. What are some of the top metrics you are reviewing to help align your D&I programs with business goals?

The HR team has designed and executed its D&I program the same way as it would operate a business. Just like any business, it has created a data and feedback loop as the backbone of all initiatives. This involves extensive stakeholder and project management to execute it at a global scale. The company  has regular check-ins with the management team on progress and next steps, keeping it on top of the agenda.

Hiring policies ensure appropriate selection criteria when hiring new staff, including for the leadership team. Job specifications, advertisements, application forms and contracts do not contain any direct or inferred discrimination.  

All internal and external training opportunities are based on merit and in light of company and individual needs. All decisions associated with career advancement, including promotions, transfers, and other assignments are determined on skill and merit and there are mechanisms for honest feedback and reviews in place. PayU also practices affirmative action hiring, and the rewards for referring female candidates for open positions are twice as high as referring male candidates. 

7.  What are your top priorities for D&I in the new fiscal year 2021-22?

PayU will continue to build on its four major goals – Inclusive talent attraction & hiring, increased representation of women in key decision-making positions, building an inclusive culture, and has also started to expand the charter beyond gender to include disability. This can be achieved through a recurring awareness program, providing relevant training and policy initiatives.


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Topics: Diversity, Leadership, #Culture

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