To  foster inclusion, leaders must lead from the front: Shweta Mohanty Roy

To foster inclusion, leaders must lead from the front: Shweta Mohanty Roy

“For any Organisational culture to succeed, it is imperative to acknowledge that diversity is not possible unless there are conditions for inclusion. Inclusion comes first, and diversity is the result of those inclusive conditions.”


In a candid conversation about the forever changing landscape of work, Shweta Mohanty Roy, Head of HR, SAP India, opened up about adopting an agile mindset within the HR function, and how it can help scale practices across functions. She also elaborated on the essential cultural change required to move from a microcosm of various cultures within an Organisation–and how it was possible to achieve this for an Organisation of any size.


What is the key to a successful CEO-CHRO relationship?


The CEO-CHRO relationship is one of the most intricate relationships today. CHROs are one of the valuable c-suite partners for CEOs to drive the conversations around workforce, talent development, cultural innovations, and overall organisational sustainability. With the focus on talent, the partnership of CEOs and CHROs are increasingly critical to ensure Organisations are representing one voice for the people and enable business strategy.


The CEO-CHRO relationship is the one that helps unleash the Organisation’s energy and its synergy, especially when assigning talent to bridge gaps, particularly for people who will be drivers of the change and innovation for an organisation.


To have the most productive relationships with CEOs, CHROs should strive to be practical strategists and align on a shared vision and business strategy. Furthermore, having an unbiased opinion and contributing to various issues can lead to them becoming valuable advisers to the CEO on a wide range of topics. Finally, they should provide an aerial view of the business, i.e., consult with the CEO on where the business is now and where it should be in one or more business cycles.


How can HR and business leaders bring a cultural change that sticks when each Organisation is said to have a microcosm of cultures?


The microcosm of cultures is something that brews over a period. For any Organisational culture to succeed, it is imperative to acknowledge that diversity is not possible unless there are conditions for inclusion. Inclusion comes first, and diversity is the result of those inclusive conditions. To encourage and foster inclusion, leaders must lead from the front. Thus, bringing a cultural change when there is a microcosm of cultures is essential. We do this by taking an active approach: we work with the executive team and other stakeholders across the company to assess the gaps and opportunities and create a strategic plan, so the expected culture is established.


It is also about aligning our recruitment goals, being champions of diversity and inclusion, where everyone is welcome – this brings the right talent on board, which drives the cultural change needed.


Furthermore, HR and business leaders can ensure that employees have the tools to support the company culture by ensuring follow-through. This includes developing a robust talent management program, incorporating culture into employee communication, acting as culture role models, intentionally modeling desired behaviors, etc. We can ensure effective yet sustainable cultural change by implementing these steps together in an Organisation with a microcosm of cultures present.


Which, according to you, are the most important skill sets needed for an employee to re-enter the workforce?


When we think about talent, we consider a few things like how to access talent, how do you get it, how do you become a creator of talent, and how do you help them maximize their potential? The ability to learn, or learning agility, is the most important thing we look for, regardless of who we are. Because we recognize that, while any Organisation may hire a person for a specific set of skills, the rate of change and skill demand is quite rapid. If you are looking to re-enter the workforce, it is best to upskill or ensure to stay skilled. The demand for qualified employees has become non-negotiable, particularly since the pandemic. Not to mention how Organisations are constantly engaging and investing in employee skilling, re-skilling, and upskilling. Taking the time to fill skill gaps also demonstrates ambition and gives people a competitive edge throughout their careers in a hot labor market.


 Leaders usually have packed schedules, and self-care often falls by the wayside during the daily grind. What simple selfcare practices can leaders use even on their busiest days to restore depleted energy levels?


Stress is often a by-product of competitive workspaces, and extreme, unyielding pressures can lead to the incapacitating condition known as burnout. And this is applicable to leaders too.


The best practice applied at SAP is prioritizing your health. We encourage people to shift their perspective to determine which aspects of their situation are fixed and which can be changed, limiting their exposure to the most stressful activities and relationships and seeking helpful interpersonal connections.


Additionally, make time for friends, get enough sleep, prioritize healthy meals, and maintain a balance of leisure time in your schedule. Furthermore, having a selfpampering experience is a simple but often overlooked form of selfcare.


How would you articulate your view on “Agile HR” and your role in the Agile journey at SAP?


Agile HR is an iterative approach to developing initiatives based on experimentation, integration, and review, supported by a trusting and collaborative culture. Agile originated in software development, but the agile mindset and principles are increasingly being tested in human resources. Agile is a method in the HR world that typically prioritizes responsiveness and adaptability.


At SAP, we constantly ask how HR can work in shorter loops? How can we develop HR Practices iteratively and incrementally? How can we work in cross-functional teams, and most importantly, how can we make HR more employee-centric?


At SAP, we collect employee feedback, and many of our HR policies and practices are developed bottom-up, thus ensuring that employees have a role to play there. We were always aware of modifying certain practices to incorporate an agile way of working into HR business processes. For instance, one of the first things we changed was how we conducted employee surveys. We used to conduct a traditional survey with a consulting firm once a year, and people took a long time to respond. If you want to be agile today, you must have instant feedback. You must also be able to respond quickly to feedback.


Also, we embraced agility for our goal-setting processes. We established quarterly goal setting on the team and individual level to drive greater accountability and focus, directly linked to skill development and rewards. Our employee development plan is a bilateral process where the onus is on the employees to define and shape their careers, with the manager acting as a facilitator. Employees set their goals on two aspects – business goals based on SAP’s priorities and development goals to plan the next steps in an employee’s career.


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