Article: Stepping AHEAD in India with employee value proposition: Kristin Supancich, Chief People Officer

Strategic HR

Stepping AHEAD in India with employee value proposition: Kristin Supancich, Chief People Officer

Chief People Officer Kristin Supancich shares how AHEAD is not only hiring Indian employees but also valuing their contributions, nurturing their growth, and integrating them into the company's operations and culture.
Stepping AHEAD in India with employee value proposition: Kristin Supancich, Chief People Officer

Last year, AHEAD established its first office in India as part of its global expansion strategy, aiming to tap into the unique skill sets available in the region. The global cloud solutions company plans to add over 300 employees for its Gurugram office. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Kristin Supancich, Chief People Officer of AHEAD, shared strategies for talent acquisition, employee relations, and fostering a productive and engaged work culture in this new setting.

Here are the edited excerpts: 

Embracing India’s unique work culture and values 

To establish its presence in India, AHEAD initially approached the region with a US perspective. However, upon understanding the unique characteristics of the talent pool in India, they decided to establish a local HR team.

"We built out various roles, including someone overseeing the team, a talent development specialist, an operations manager, and a dedicated recruiter, even before expanding our employee base, and it proved immensely beneficial. Having a local team was imperative because, while we aim for certain global alignment and practices, local customisation is essential. Each employee base has unique cultural and regional needs. To oversee local operations, we invest time in discussing the specific needs of the employee base in India to enhance their overall employee experience,” shared Kristin.

By understanding the needs of Indian employees, including fulfilling workplace camaraderie, a sense of purpose, and opportunities to contribute meaningfully, AHEAD established their employee benefits policies. Kristin added, “In India, quality healthcare and other benefits are crucial, and we strive to treat our employees here like family, extending benefits even to their parents, recognising the unique challenges they may face.”

Tailoring benefits for Indian workers 

Post-pandemic, holistic well-being has gained significant importance globally. Organisations that prioritise employee well-being tend to attract top talent. As for hiring practices, flexible work policies post-pandemic has become paramount, “Whether it is flexible work hours or caregiving leave, tailoring benefits to meet specific regional needs is key. Inclusive well-being programmes encompassing family members, including those with special needs, present challenges. While we offer general support, we are continually evolving to better accommodate diverse needs. The pandemic has reshaped the employer-employee relationship, fostering greater empathy and flexibility. Work-life boundaries have blurred, leading to a more human-centric approach to management. This shift has challenged HR leaders to adapt and support employees in new ways, ultimately enhancing organisational competitiveness and attracting top talent,” explained Kristin

Understanding C’s of workplaces in India - Culture, Collaboration and Care 

By understanding the local talent needs, AHEAD aims to ensure alignment with the core values of the workforce in every region. Kristin says, “Collaborating closely with local HR directors allows us to achieve this balance effectively. We placed a strong emphasis on surveying employees to identify their needs. Our focus was on creating programmes that fostered a sense of safety and provided necessary support, such as facilitating access to well-being resources. For example - As we transitioned out of the pandemic, we aimed to instil confidence in employees returning to the office. Simple measures like installing additional filters, ensuring sanitation stations, and implementing social distancing protocols were pivotal in making employees feel comfortable. Subsequently, recognising that some employees may be apprehensive about returning to the office or face significant commuting challenges, we've explored alternatives like offering options for periodic office visits.”

Kristin adds, “While fostering an office culture is important, there are diverse ways to achieve this, especially considering the rise of hybrid and remote work models. Our focus remains on aligning with our core values, such as servant leadership, and adapting our approach based on employee feedback. Another aspect we're actively exploring is the creation of communities to foster connections among employees, regardless of their physical location. These communities serve as spaces for shared experiences, contributing to a sense of belonging and indirectly reinforcing their connection to the company. We understand that fostering a sense of purpose and community enhances productivity, engagement, and overall well-being. Ultimately, our goal is to create an environment where employees feel valued, connected, and empowered to contribute their best, irrespective of their location or work arrangement.”

Rethinking norms to attract and retain talent 

The recent debate on the 70-hour workweek has sparked outcry from the workforce in India, especially among young workers who prioritise productivity but prefer shorter working hours.

Underlining the need for work-life balance in today’s workplaces, Kristin shared, “There's a noticeable shift across generations in how we perceive busyness and its correlation with value in the workplace. For instance, Generation X, once believed that being the hardest worker, the first in and last out of the office, was the surefire path to recognition and reward. However, this mindset is evolving rapidly, with many now recognising it as a sign of toxic work culture. Rethinking these old norms, we engage in discussions on how to best adapt to these changing dynamics. For example, In HR, it is not merely about administrative tasks or compensation, but also about empowering our workforce to thrive. By understanding what's working, what's not, and what our employees truly need, we develop roadmaps for incremental improvements, leveraging data and ongoing feedback. Effective leadership is about balancing the present needs with future aspirations, even if it means breaking away from old habits that no longer serve us.”

Kristin highlights, “In creating our employment brand and value proposition, we engage with employees across all levels, fostering a supportive work environment with inspiring leadership, amenities, and services that enhance their experience. This positive workplace narrative, in turn, attracts top talent, ensuring our continued growth and success.”

Hiring and workplace trends in 2024

Identifying the key trends and practices that will transform workplaces in 2024, as well as in attracting talent, Kristin identified, “Within the IT and development sectors, our approach is comprehensive. We aim to leverage every available avenue for recruitment, ensuring that we engage with potential talent throughout the entire recruitment lifecycle. Some of the key elements for this will be: 

Employer branding approach for talent attraction - Developing a strategy to proactively nurture and attract talent, even when positions are not immediately available. This involves raising awareness about our organisation, showcasing job opportunities, and sharing stories about onboarding experiences to provide insight into our unique culture. Through these efforts, we aim to establish a connection with potential candidates, whether they are actively seeking new opportunities or currently employed.

Employee referral systems - Recognising the power of referrals and past professional relationships in recruiting top talent. When individuals share positive experiences about working at AHEAD and endorse our culture, it significantly boosts our recruitment efforts and contributes to higher retention rates.

Career development programmes - While we prioritise experienced hires to meet our current organisational needs, we also offer early career development programmes for recent graduates. These programmes provide opportunities to gain technical expertise and valuable workplace skills through hands-on experience.

Continuous learning culture - We emphasise continuous learning and development for all employees, providing training not only in technical areas but also in soft skills such as communication and change management. In the face of constant change, we aim to equip our employees with the necessary tools to navigate challenges effectively. Our commitment to employee development extends beyond the workplace, supporting personal growth to enhance overall well-being and performance.

Employee engagement and experience - Adopting a business partner model where dedicated teams ensure that various aspects of employee engagement, from compensation to development, are seamlessly integrated into the business. Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where every employee thrives, driving our efforts every day."

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Topics: Strategic HR, Employee Relations, #Trends, #HRCommunity

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