Leaders need to look at employee centricity as a key enabler for customer centricity: Ajay Sreedhara

Leaders need to look at employee centricity as a key enabler for customer centricity: Ajay Sreedhara

Ajay Sreedhara, Global Head, People Function, Cleartrip, talks about how the pandemic has led to more futuristic ways of working in the travel tech industry and why jobs on the rise place a premium on soft skills. He also shares how organisations can reimagine wellbeing for the future of work and better engage talent to navigate the new reality.

The pandemic caused both temporary and permanent shifts in business models and how and where work is done. Which changes in the travel tech industry do you believe will be short-term? On the other hand, which transformations are likely to extend into the post-pandemic era?


The pandemic has significantly impacted work processes. We had to rapidly move to a remote working model while helping our customers deal with the disruptions to their travel plans. The initial days were challenging as we went on a steep learning curve to adapt to these changes.


As the industry emerges from the aftermath of the pandemic, we will move from a completely remote model to hybrid working. This will help employees maintain a work-life balance while fostering a more robust culture by leveraging our office space to build social capital. We will continue to rely on virtual workplaces and physical space to build and sustain our high-performance culture.


Additionally, the pandemic has amplified the need to focus on the wellness needs of employees, our greatest asset. We will continue to invest more in ensuring that both the physical and mental well-being of employees are taken care of.


HR leaders across organisations are smack-dab in the middle of reimagining how people and businesses can thrive in the post COVID era. What are the top HR challenges confronting the travel tech industry today?


The travel tech industry, like other tech-driven industries, is rapidly transforming the travel sector. This translates into strong demand for premium talent. Thus, attracting quality talent is a top challenge in today’s environment. Retention of talent is an equally important challenge. Our objective is to create an environment that makes our employees challenged enough to bring their best to their work.


We have to take adequate measures to ensure we protect our talents’ mental and physical well-being and provide them with the right culture and environment to maximise productivity.


While many soft skills will never go out of style and are transferrable across a wide range of roles and industries, the shelf life of hard skills is rapidly shrinking. Which soft and hard skills are becoming increasingly valuable for jobs in the travel tech industry?


We place a higher emphasis on soft skills over hard skills. In organisations such as ours, the success of initiatives depends on our workforce’s ability to collaborate within and across teams to achieve goals. Hence teamwork, emotional quotient, the ability to think of winwin solutions, and effective listening are prized soft skills.


Hard skills are also essential, and technical ability does play a role in deciding on the right candidate. Product management, AI, machine learning, full-stack capabilities, marketing, and analytics are currently some critical hard skills. The ultimate goal is to ensure that our talent pool has a balance of soft and hard skills that can help us meet our business objectives.


How can HR functions in the travel tech industry use technology to improve employee experience and business performance?


We use tech-driven employee dashboards and real-time monitoring to improve the employee experience. This data helps us understand the unique needs of each employee and helps us undertake course corrections where required. We work collaboratively to ensure that organisational goals are cascaded to employee goals in line with the SMART philosophy. We emphasise a lot on skill-building and provide employees assistance in acquiring any special skills.


Our engagement initiatives extend beyond work. We also organise multiple activities such as rejuvenation sessions, yoga, Zumba sessions, mental health workshops, and sessions with family and kids. We also have “chai pe charcha” sessions with leaders where employees talk about everything other than work. We also introduced wellness days off, where we periodically give leaves to employees over and above their allotted leaves. A mandatory lunch hour has also been put in place where the team is strictly not allowed to work. Finally, we provide flexible work timings and do not ever set up meetings in the evening.


What do you believe are the most crucial traits that HR and business leaders in the travel tech industry ought to cultivate and demonstrate to drive business success in the post-COVID future?


In my opinion, leaders need to look at employee centricity as a key enabler for customer centricity. The predominant goal of any business is to maximise stakeholder value by delighting its customers. In order to do so, it is critical to ensure that we have the right culture in place that can provide employees with a strong platform to build solutions that exceed customer needs. Organisations must re-design their work processes to ensure their employees stay engaged and work together to accomplish business goals while maintaining wellness levels and work-life balance.



Ankita Sharma is working as Senior Editor with Human Capital. With 6+ years of experience, she has performed diverse roles across the entire spectrum of corporate HR — from hire to retire.


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