Krishna Raghavan is the Chief People Officer at Flipkart. Before his current role, he has been the Technology Head for Flipkart’s Fulfillment and Services and Customer Experience Groups. In the course of his tenure at Flipkart, Krishna has spearheaded the launch of the marketplace platform and has led multiple strategic technology initiatives for Ekart. Aside from his strong tech expertise, he is also known to be a people leader. A leader with the right blend of technical and people skills has built exemplary engineering teams from scratch with intuitive people management and sound organisational planning.
In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Krishna shares how Flipkart is leading its hybrid working policies and shares expert insights on creating transparent communication channels and performance management practices and ensuring employee work-life balance. Here are some key excerpts.
As organisations embrace hybrid working models, what challenges still need to be addressed? How are you overcoming them?
Shifting to a hybrid work culture requires discipline from managers and employees to maintain a positive and balanced work environment. Building a successful hybrid workforce can be challenging, as it is not just about combining the aspects of working from home and an in-person work model. Leaders must have a collaborative approach that creates a transparent communication channel between employees and employers, enabling organisations to design an ideal employee experience.
At Flipkart, our employees form the backbone of our organisation, and we strive to approach decision-making transparently. Based on employee feedback and considering several critical external factors, we adopted a hybrid model beginning in March 2022. This model combines employees working remotely and from the office on different days of the week, allowing teams to decide the days that work best for them.
We have opened up additional offices across the country by maintaining a flexible approach to customising solutions based on employee needs. We are also offering employees the flexibility to work out of satellite offices within Bangalore. Through this model, we are helping every Flipster play a vital role in the decision-making process. These steps enable us to foster trust and flexibility within the organisation, which helps us operate in an efficient hybrid work environment.
The proximity bias seems to be a concern for employers who opt for hybrid working models, especially during performance reviews. How can leadership today consciously move away from such practices and enable fairer, more transparent performance management?
The ecosystem has undergone various changes. The notion of employees being more productive in the office has changed drastically over the past two years, which has compelled many leaders to rethink and be more inclusive.
The new world of work demands a more continuous performance management process that aligns with the goals and objectives of an organisation. This means inviting all the voices to be heard in two-way conversations between managers and employees, creating a sense of community even for the remote workforce. Continuous performance management can be different for every organisation. For example, the process often alternates between one-on-one check-ins and intervals in which employees track progress against quarterly goals. This framework creates a continuous communication channel between leaders and employees and helps employees work towards broad career goals. This approach can also help leaders gain a deeper insight into how their employees operate and give them more opportunities to reward hard work. Data from a continuous feedback process can also help leaders make more informed decisions and introduce new people-centric policies.
Some recommendations include:
- Goals Focussed Approach: Being objective and focused only on goals can help give a pivot towards the actual work done and take away the focus from the mode in which the work was done (in person or from home)
- Addressing any biases: Performance calibration and review conversations can be a good opportunity for the leadership and HR teams to identify and deep dive into inherent factors that managers consider during these conversations. For example, whether a particular judgment is based on facts or assumptions can be identiﬁed as any inherent proximity biases etc. Proactively looking at data to see if there is a pattern emerging on ratings/promotion recommendations for talent that has had a physical presence and keeping managers honest by openly engaging on these data points and actively addressing the bias can also be helpful.
With flexible working hours, the boundaries between work and personal lives get blurred, a challenge that employees continue to face. So how can leaders create an environment where their people can easily switch off from work and have that work-life balance?
It is essential to understand that every employee functions differently. Therefore, leaders should enable employees to create their own work-life balance. Provide employees with all the necessary tools and support them so that they can plan their priorities, whether they are personal or professional.
We must understand that every employee’s experience is determined by multiple factors most influenced by their direct manager. It also includes critical touchpoints in their journey like their interaction with leaders, cross-functional teams, processes, policies, and the work environment. You cannot ignore any of these if you are looking at building an exceptional employee-focused culture.
At Flipkart, we look at these by ensuring that we are a bottom-up organisation; every voice matters and is heard through various channels, be it focus groups, leadership connects or regular surveys. We focus on empowering our people managers across all levels and ensuring they are equipped with the right skills, behaviours, tools and support systems to nurture and mentor talent. Our policies are never designed in isolation - at the outset, it incorporates feedback and suggestions from people for the policies they are designed for. We emphasise a work environment designed to help our employees excel with the right tools and policies and are highly empathetic to their needs.
What would be your advice to HR leaders on measuring the effectiveness of their hybrid models of work?
My word of advice would be to keep listening and learning. Use tools like surveys, employee feedback, and focus groups to measure employee engagement, understand challenges, and identify ways to work more effectively. Use a continuous feedback loop to check whether the employees can work collaboratively. At Flipkart, we conduct hybrid work surveys to continuously listen in on their overall experience, be it with tech, collaboration, decision-making effectiveness, flexibility and Work-life balance. This helps us stay close to reality and understand what works and can be improved.
Leaders must ensure that they provide their employees with the same empathy and support developed during the pandemic while everyone was working from home. Use transparent communication channels to create a strong sense of trust within the workplace.
Lastly, the success of a hybrid work environment will show up in employee satisfaction and the way the company is performing. As hybrid provides more flexibility to employees, they will bring their best to the table, and the organisation will also be able to attract fresh talent.