If we need to delight our customers externally, we need to delight our employees
Employees with greater autonomy and flexibility, from the employer, are more productive
For any organization, creating a flexible and inclusive workplace that reflects its culture and values is crucial. And for an e-commerce company like Flipkart, where all decisions are customer-focused, the employees, who are the face of the company to consumers, become all the more important. If we need to delight our customers externally, we need to delight our employees. The key agenda in front of us was how to take care of the employees’ well-being and diverse needs. This thought led Flipkart to embark on a year-long exercise to better understand employee needs and relook the benefits and wellness programs.Research findings highlight that employees with greater autonomy and flexibility, from the employer, made them more productive and enabled them to unleash their full potential.
While organizations offer benefits programs to enhance their employer brand or do it as a mandatory exercise, at Flipkart, the emphasis has always been on whether such benefits are meaningful for our employees in the true sense of usability or not. To arrive at a feasible outcome, a framework called “Benefits Design Principles” was created internally with a core theme of employees being at the center of all design and equality in offering all benefits across the organization. The aim of using the framework was to enable the design of all benefits programs to be consistent and ensure they are attuned to Flipkart’s culture. The framework comprised the following drivers:
- Employees are at the center of all policies and decisions
- Equality – No differentiation by levels
- Trust people to do the right thing
- Care – When in need, be there
- Inclusivity – Understand all needs and be flexible
- Focus on usability and adoption of the benefits
As a part of the exercise to understand employee needs, Flipkart conducted pulse surveys to understand how employees felt about and looked at benefits. We also spoke to many focus groups of employees, who had availed certain benefits programs, to better understand what they viewed as support from the employer. It was a fascinating exercise and we got to know things that we would not have known otherwise. For example, we had not thought that the location of the car parking would be one of the top preferences for pregnant women. Such feedback was used by Flipkart to enhance their benefits design. The following is a list of the unique measures that were built into their benefits programs.
- Insurance: In keeping with the flexibility principle of the framework and based on employee feedback, the company decided to eliminate the upper limit on the top-up option for the employee insurance policies. Beyond the base cover, which is taken care of by the company, the employee can top-up the policy for an unlimited amount. Apart from that, the company also increased the maternity cover and removed ailment capping.
- Work-life balance: The measure of work-life balance involves measuring the time spent away from work, which helps the employees to easily transition between their personal and professional space. An example to foster the above was the introduction of 5 day marriage leave to provide flexibility to manage work-life balance, as a large demography of our employees are Gen Y. Apart from this, to support employees in any event of personal loss, Flipkart instituted an unlimited bereavement leave policy. Also, beyond annual leave and casual leave, every employee gets a “special day” leave that they can use on a day of their choice – whether it is their own birthday, their spouses’ or child’s birthday. We have also taken employees diverse backgrounds into consideration and provided them with 2 optional holidays of their choice basis regional festivals, over and above the mandatory 10 national holidays.
- Career Break: All full-time employees who complete two years with the company are eligible to take a sabbatical from work for a period of up to six months. The career break could be taken for– experimenting with a new business idea, higher education or taking care of the health of a family member etc.
- Maternity support: Apart from 6 months maternity leave, expectant mothers get 4 months of flexible hours with full pay. Post 10 months, if the new mother has a need to take more time off then we enable them with up to 12 months of sabbatical. Two months before going on maternity leave, expectant mothers get a dedicated parking spot. They can use cabs at their convenience and claim transport reimbursement for up to Rs.600 per day, if they have difficulty driving their own vehicles.
- Paternity Support: Expectant fathers can avail paternity leave of up to 10 days either before or after the baby’s birth. They can also choose flexible working hours for 3 months before or after the child’s birth and can also claim maternity expenses for their spouse.
- Adoption Assistance: In order to promote adoption, Flipkart offers 50,000 allowance to be used towards legal, agency, regulatory costs etc. to help in the process of adoption. Women employees adopting an infant under 12 months of age can avail the same benefits as under maternity policy. For children over 12 months, they can avail up to 3 months paid leave and 4 months of flexible working hours. Male employees who are adopting a child can avail up to six weeks of paid adoption leave.
- Employee Assistance Program: Employees and their families have access to 24/7 telephonic counseling support which provides free consultation for matters related to work and life, marital and family, legal and financial issues among many others.
- Day care support: Flipkart tied up with four day care service providers in Bangalore allowing employees to enroll children up to the age of four in any of these facilities and avail of a 50 percent subsidy on the fee. This was done in order to create a strong support system for our employees considering most of the employees are nuclear families.
- Higher Education Assistance: Flipkart enables its employees to pursue higher education by sponsoring 12.5 lacs as tuition fees reimbursement.Part-time courses including weekend programs, certification programs, and professional development courses are supported with employee entitlements ranging from INR 1 lac to 5 lacs.
- Wellness Program: “HarPal”, Flipkart’s wellness program is designed to take custom care of Flipsters (Flipkart’s employees) pertaining to their holistic well-being. Our primary objective of providing wellness programs is to help raise awareness, provide information and education that encourages employees and their families to adopt healthier lifestyles.
The wellness program offers a wide variety of solutions that are focused on the diverse needs of the employeesand includes a wellness portal, a mobile app service,call a doctor, dietician on chat, online pharmacy order and delivery of medicines. The services also offer employees an opportunity to get a second opinion on medical issues. All of these are done keeping in mind the blurring boundaries between personal and professional space and the role that Flipkart wants to play in providing the best to its employees at all times.
At Flipkart, we follow a themed-based wellness program calendar which stresses on different aspect of health & well-being throughout the year,offering various onsite camps such as health check-up, fitness, diet & nutrition activities, vaccination camps, blood donation camps, financial wellness session, eye & dental check-up camps etc.
In order to enhance the comfort at workplace for our employees, we have a wellness centre on campus with an onsite doctor service for daily 6 hours, onsite gym facility, recreational room, bunker rooms and mother’s room. Some of these measures adopted go a long way in defining a culture of well-being.
The challenge of communication
The principle challenge in successfully implementing such a program was effective employee communication. We were able to solve this by employing a variety of modes of communication, both on-line and offline, to maximize our reach. From regular posters, mailers and chats with the employees, to more engaging floor walks, town halls, targeted social media campaigns & leadership announcements during all hands etc. Efforts were also directed at translating messages into local languages so that Flipsters across the country were able to assimilate it. A visible impact of such targeted communication was the increase in numbers of top enrollments jumping from 25 percent to 48 percent, in the technology group.
Impact and review
In order to measure the impact of the benefits programs, the company constantly monitors usability and adoption rates. Apart from looking at the adoption metric for the targeted group of employees, the company also looks at a “happiness index”, which measures the employee experience at various stages of benefits program lifecycle. For example in our insurance program, we measure the employees experience at each step of the process through a survey. Keeping in mind the ever changing business environment, we review our benefits and processes associated with them every six months and would also include organization-level metrics such as diversity ratio, referral ratio etc.
When companies deploy their own principles and philosophy to guide programs like benefits, they are likely to make such programs more valuable to both the employee and the organization. When organizations make their benefits program meaningful, employees are more likely to talk about it and that is the biggest outreach for any company. And this has been the biggest learning for me.
As told to J. Jerry Moses