DEI is a collaborative approach, says Ruhie Pande, CHRO, Godrej Capital
Ruhie Pande, CHRO, Godrej Capital who believes in being a lifelong learner is a seasoned HR professional and passionate about coaching individuals both within and outside the organisations and leading HR transformation strategy and diversity.
With more than two decades of experience in companies across sectors like financial services, real estate, fashion retail, IT, and FMCG, Ruhie feels that productive, engaged, and motivated employees are the most important evidence of a high-performing culture of an organisation.
What made you decide to take a postgraduate degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology? In which way did it help you groom as an HR leader?
Being in the Human Resources function for all these years I have endeavoured to create mechanisms, policies, and processes which at the end of the day impact what our people really want from their roles and the workplace. Hence understanding of individual and organisational psychology was key to this resolution. While I have a keen interest in Psychology and have read many theoretical and experiential books on human psychology, identifying & completing a degree course in the same discipline gave me a very rigorous perspective on the topic. I was also able to publish my first research paper while pursuing this degree, on the topic of Women and the Glass Ceiling. The whole process of research and publication was an experience that was not just enriching but also deeply fulfilling. Finding references made to my research paper and it is quoted by other professionals is something that I am immensely proud of.
As a CHRO, how do you define a high-performance culture?
The prevalent culture in an organisation can contribute a great deal towards how the organisation and its people are faring. The most important evidence of a high-performing culture is where employees are productive, engaged, and motivated. They can utilise their capability along with the tools, resources, and processes provided by the organisation to exceed their individual goals and therefore those of the organisation. Managers and leaders work for the betterment of this environment for their people and the organisation is viewed favourably by customers, stakeholders, and society. A strong set of values and purpose prevails across the organisation, and everyone lives these principles daily.
However, apart from these indicators, there are certain basic values or principles which need to be prevailing in the org culture. A strong sense of trust must exist where individuals are able to collaborate, innovate and work together. The focus must be on teams and the collective rather than the individual. Diversity is an important element and contributes richly to creating an environment of trust, faith, equity, and inclusivity. Without these, no organisation can succeed today. And finally, there needs to be a clear sense of direction – clarity, structure and well-defined, measurable goals are key to enable people and teams to deliver high performance in the organisation.
You have worked with companies across sectors like financial services, real estate, fashion retail, IT, and FMCG. Can you share observations on how the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion is different for these sectors? Do different sectors approach DE&I differently?
I have been fortunate to work in these different sectors and as a woman leader to propound and build on concepts of DEI, even before it became ‘fashionable’ to do so. Every organisation that I worked with had a unique culture and market reality. Therefore, each sector brought its own ask from DEI principles and required unique ways of solutions.
For example, my role at Marico Kaya, the customer was predominantly female and the industry norm for service delivery also focussed on women employees. However, we still drove diversity here by aiming to onboard and assimilate male employees. We also, all those years ago, successfully were able to provide for geographical diversity and less economically forward communities from across India to be a part of our ecosystem. The impact this brought on our business and culture was unparalleled.
Even at Godrej Capital today, which operates in the BFSI space and as a sub-category in the lending space, we find that the talent pool is mostly made of men. Identifying and building on diversity and aspects of equity and inclusion, calls for innovative ways of working. Focus on alternate diversity norms such as orientation, physical ability, religious minorities has been a key focus here. We also adopted the campus hiring route to bring in diversity. And we must remember diversity is not just about hiring from different cohorts. It is also about a different mindset – hence very early when we were building our teams from the ground up, we focussed on ensuring that people who joined us came from different organisations within and outside the BFSI sector. Our first set of 300 employees came from 100 different organisations.
How do you think DEI has been redefined over a period? Has Covid accelerated the DEI in organisations?
As society has progressed and changed, so too has the ask from DEI. We are very different from what we were even 5 years ago – think GenZ population coming in which for the first time is putting three very different generations together in the workplace. Managing such dynamics is going to be a key focus for culture custodians and DEI specialists.
Covid certainly has changed how we work and both people and organisations have learnt fundamental lessons. People are looking to focus on flexibility, work-life balance, mental health, and purpose in life. This translates into their expectations for what they want the organisations to provide to them. Similarly, organisations now can focus on hybrid and remote working, gig workers and contractors to provide sometimes better-quality projects and deliverables.
There is also legislation in place today which did not even exist a decade ago, and which now calls for representation of diverse sets of people and provisions for ensuring their safety, development, and care in the workplace.
Competition is immense and the need to create and maintain a culture of unique policies, benefits and experiences is something that professionals need to be constantly striving towards. Talent market is very volatile, and the promise of a seemingly unique benefit is sufficient to lure talent to competition. So, focus on retention and engagement are key goals for DEI experts.
Most importantly DEI is not something that the HR fraternity or a DEI functional expert can channelise and impact. It must be a collaborative approach by hiring managers, functional leaders, and the visionary at the helm of things in organisations.
GenZ has very different expectations for the future of work, how is Godrej Capital responding to their demands to ensure inclusivity?
GenZ population has just started stepping into the workplace. At Godrej Capital, our focus has been on constant listening and ensuring we are able to cater to everyone’s requirements in the workplace. We have made use of a listening tool that sends out pulse surveys to all our employees about their sentiments in the organisation. These responses are acted upon with the highest priority and thus we can cater individually to people and their feedback. This has had a good impact on how we manage GenZ.
We also have some unique benefit policies for example a work support device policy that enables people to buy a device of their choice to support them in communication and work. Stemming from people’s desire to own the latest technology this policy has seen a good response from the GenZ with us. Similar policies and processes are in line to cater to their demands.
Most importantly GenZ wants to work with organisations that enable them to be flexible, and have freedom to choose their work norms. In response we continue to operate in a hybrid manner, allowing work from home as a norm and stipulation for all employees, including in the frontline. Work-life balance is a key concern, and we regularly provide ‘Switch Off’ which gives all employees across the organisation take a long weekend off to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Since the entire organisation is also on a break, no one disturbs you and you can really take a break from work.
Provision of wellness facilities such as mental health access, doctor on call, health and wellness assessment facilities are also a part of the benefits which see good take up from the GenZ population.
How are you addressing the new workplace trends such as quiet quitting, quiet hiring, and quiet firing and quiet promotion?
These may seem like fast fashion terminologies, but the reality is that they are all new norms that are a reality of the world today and organisations must make efforts to work towards ameliorating them. The thrust is on all elements in the organisation structure which can contribute towards a better work culture and environment for everyone.
Our social listening tools enable us to identify the fence sitters or the ones who are disengaged or having a bad experience in the organisation. These events identified are then acted upon with discipline and the situation is made better for these employees.
With respect to performance, as with any other organisation today, we look for exceptional performance and delivery in roles. Our Performance Management Process has been designed in a manner that ensures it is not just a once-in-a-year tick-box activity. Goal formulation is a rigidly defined and reviewed process, to ensure that clarity of responsibilities is given to employees. The goals are then assessed on a quarterly basis to enable people to course correct rather than punish people for missing objectives. The impact this has on productivity as well as motivation is much greater than traditional norms of assessing individual performance.
The reward for good work will tend to be more work, but as an organisation we also believe in equipping our people and have over-invested in capability-building initiatives. These are programs designed and created specifically for the work groups and sometimes in partnership with industry certification experts.
We also believe that the best talent is the one that is already with us and this year we have focussed on publishing all vacancies internally so that our people received opportunities to grow within the organisation. Happy to share the numbers that 26% of associate roles and 14% of middle management roles were all filled with internal talent this year.