- Your views on the concept of employee engagement?
In my view, employee engagement is a very powerful tool for talent development and retention. It not only helps employees apply their knowledge and interests beyond their usual work, but also creates a sense of transparency and openness in the organization. From the organization perspective, it creates a pool of expertise which can be tapped in when key initiatives, projects, change processes etc take place. Employee engagement can range from creating formal learning platforms (physical or virtual) to informal setting where employees can exchange ideas and learn from each other. It is about constantly stimulating their minds to add value in a small way to most strategic shifts and hence giving great sense of achievement, pride and confidence in oneself.
- Role of HR and management in employee engagement?
Role of leadership, managers, and HR specifically is crucial in promoting, nurturing and cherishing the benefits of employee engagement. This is a perfect tool to shape the organization culture and embedding the values one wants to drive within the organization. Leadership needs to set the tone at the top by setting up decision making processes which represent this culture of engagement. HR needs to ensure that these principles are embedded in employee life cycle, starting from how we hire, induct, develop, and motivate people. HR also plays a major role in coaching and advising managers to lead their teams in a way that it creates a dynamic environment for employees to contribute and stay tuned with what’s happening beyond their teams.
- How is employee engagement done in your organization/industry?
In WWF we apply employee engagement in 3 ways: 1) providing tools and platforms for personal, collective learning and peer exchanges; 2) identifying key talent in specific areas to come together and work on very specific organizational projects; 3) In more fluid and voluntary basis by calling upon interested employees to join a brainstorming or contributing into a topic.
- Best practices you have come across to improve people’s motivation at workplace?
Some of the best practices begin with the minimum hygiene level like providing good and fun workspace, working hours flexibility, teleworking, staff gatherings to celebrate, involving staff in running information sessions rather than management all the time, involving families whether it a festive period or picnics, recognition programs which encourage the right behaviours. The list goes on…….
- Your personal journey? Your advise to people who want to follow your professional footsteps?
I am born and brought up in a small town and with parents who cherished having 2 daughters and invested all their energy in giving best of education to shape their future. I have been always appreciated and recognized as an all rounder in my school and university. My strength came from trying out various things whether it was debates, poetry, painting, dancing, drama, etc and learning from my father the art to bring your best in all what you do. My dreams started by wanting to be a doctor, then to civil services, sometimes towards serving nation through army and sometimes wanting to pursue an stage/screen artist route. But one point which stayed common in all my thoughts was that I loved being around people and wanted to do something with people.
My advice would be to stay very focussed in what you want from your life and keep the resilience to overcome all barriers. Listen to your heart and follow your passion. My believe is also that one can not be a complete human if we succeed in one thing and ignore the other. Hence for me loving everything one does is key – whether it is board meeting at one point of the day and cooking meals for kids at other.
- Why did you choose HR function as a career stream?
When I was doing my MBA, the 2 areas which fascinated me the most were Marketing and Human Resources. Both had the common string of being your best with people whether you sell products or you sell your thoughts and ideas, and listening to other side of the table. Over the course of 2nd year, I felt that my sensitivities towards how people are feeling, listening to them carefully, providing them with solutions and coaching them as they go with solutions, and taking leadership stand when needed; were integral part of my personality. This is when I wanted to be an HR professional in my future career, and from day one I was very clear that I am not shaped up for the administrative and labour law side of HR, but more towards the talent, development and leadership side of HR.
- How has the HR function evolved in your company and industry over the last few years? How do you see its future?
HR function has evolved dramatically not only just in my organization but also in the continent I am in (Europe) since past 15 years. My first job soon after my MBA was with one of the largest telecommunication company HSS based in India. HSS was known for its best HR practices in Asia Pacific. That was my real training ground! Then when I moved to Europe, I found HR to be still very traditional. I hence targeted only multinational companies or international organizations.
In my current job at WWF, HR is seen as a strategic partner and organization has been investing heavily into hiring good HR professionals in all parts of the globe. It is seen that we as a non-profit conservation organization can only deliver through our only asset ‘our people’, and hence the organization needs to invest in right leadership, building managerial capabilities and creating a great place to work. Hence the future can only get better!
- How important is learning and development function for employees in your company and industry?
Learning & Development is crucial and has to be the set as the backbone of an organization. Creating the culture of learning is the only way which can help organizations to succeed and stay relevant in the fast changing pace of the world. Today one needs to think about different ways of doing things and different ideas to create new impact on the stakeholders or clients. Above all, organizations can not ignore the fact that we are in the era of social media and GenY. Innovation is key and that can come only from an individual, group or organization which has an agile and learning approach.
At WWF we are continuously striving to create awareness around this and creating platforms for employees to tap into for their development. We drive the 70:20:10 rule – 70 comes from on job learning, 20 learning from others, and 10 from formal learning.
- Do you think it is possible to create-‘TGIM-Thank God It’s Monday’ culture in organizations especially when people feel disengaged at work? Is it important for people to love their work?
TGIM can not be created if people do not love their jobs and if they do not feel engaged at work. My barometer of whether I need to look for another job is when I drive down to work early morning every day and not just Monday, I feel a gush of enthusiasm and I am energized to handle the challenging issues at work. Dealing with all the issues which could be sometimes fun and sometimes frustrating, do not pull down my energy but re-energize me and give a huge sense of satisfaction. Personally, my work has been my source of energy at home too and vice versa. The sense of personal satisfaction at work helps me to be a better mother, better wife and better daughter. Hence in my view it is instrumental that people do love and enjoy their work rather than seeing it as a 9 to 5 job. Infact, I believe that giving people the space to thrive and make their own decisions on how they would like to deliver, yields more productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.
- Any international practices followed in HR field that you would like to adopted by companies in India?
Amongst many great practices which are common now globally, one great thing I have seen in organizations within Europe is creating policies which enable women to pursue their careers even in their child bearing periods. The way maternity leaves are shaped and the way flexibility around 50%, 60%, 80% return to work is managed, it gives great confidence in women to dream of great career inspite of having few breaks. In many organizations, even the concept of shared maternity-paternity between the couple has been introduced which not only encourages the balanced role of working parents towards their children, but also gives equal opportunity in careers.
We recently had the opportunity to interview for the TGIM project-
Ms. Shivani Wadhwa
Director, People & Organization Development.
We are grateful to her and her organization for sharing their valuable insights. We are also thankful to Dr. Harsh Purohit for his support and Mr. Siddhartha Sharma for sharing the interview content with us.