In Conversation with Shilpa Vaid on Organization Culture and its significance.

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Every organization has its own culture and a good organizational culture helps to keep employees motivated, engaged and loyal to the organization. We are privileged to have Shilpa Vaid for exclusive conversation on Organization culture and its significance.

Shilpa is currently working as the Chief Human Resources Officer for Arvind Lifestyle Brands Limited. She has overall responsibility for the Human Resources & Administration functions for Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd., Arvind Fashions Ltd., Arvind Beauty Brands Retail Pvt. Ltd, The Arvind Store and Arvind Sports Lifestyle Ltd.

Shilpa is an HR leader with over 19 years of local & international experience spanning across all functional areas of HR. She graduated from Hindu College, Delhi University and has an MBA in Human Resources from the International Management Institute, New Delhi. She started her career in HR consulting with Ernst & Young/ Arthur Andersen and thereafter worked with Aviva Life Insurance and ICICI Prudential Life Insurance.

She then worked with MetLife as the Country Head of Human Resources wherein she led the HR function for the India business of the global insurance giant. Her last assignment with MetLife was as the Talent Management lead for Asia. Thereafter, Shilpa served as the Chief HR and Corporate Responsibility Officer for Bharti AXA General Insurance wherein she had overall responsibility for the Human Resources, Corporate Responsibility and Internal Communications functions.

Q- What is Organizational Culture to you and how is culture created?

The culture of a company is its DNA; it is the spoken & unspoken rules that govern people’s behaviours in an organization. The way I look at it is that if the company were a person; the culture would be its personality (and the values would be the soul!).

Culture is created and embedded into an organization over a period of time. While you cannot see or touch a culture, it is present in the actions of employees of an organization – especially when nobody is watching. It’s how decisions are made; how problems are solved; how differences are resolved; how issues are highlighted and how crisis is managed.

The most important thing to remember however is that as leaders, we shape the culture of our team with our actions & choices – which behaviour is encouraged & rewarded; which behaviour is frowned upon and reprimanded; who gets promoted; who gets access to the meaty projects; what is pushed under the carpet. Leaders craft culture; people live it through their day – to – day actions.

Q- How do you see shift at leadership levels in expecting to evolve culture? In your opinion what are the main drivers of culture change in organization?

There is an increasing focus right from the Board of Directors level on-crafting a winning culture in the organization. There is widespread recognition that organizational culture has the power to encourage innovation, creativity and growth, but these qualities need to be brought to life; they need to be more than words. While culture operates in an invisible fashion, its influence in producing results is unquestionable.As organizations mature; it is imperative to preserve those elements of the culture that delivered success and equally to evolve those that could be impediments to progress.

Culture change is always created from the top but it comes to life from bottom up. In the best organizations, culture is deliberately crafted and cultivated by the leadership team and permeates through the entire organization.

Sometimes cultures need to evolve because there are tell-tale warning signs of stagnant growth; high employee attrition and issues with customer retention. We all know that adversity forces us to reflect and evolve. The smarter organizations I believe have mechanisms in place to gain feedback on what elements are working well and what need to evolve – it could be through customer or employee feedback and how the external world views you. And then they put in place an action plan to drive that change.

Q- How do you see the impact of organizational culture on HR and business processes & practices?

It works both ways – culture impacts processes and processes/ practices build & reinforce culture. There are elements of the organizational culture that come through in the HR processes and business processes. For example, how a candidate is treated during the recruitment process is an indication of the organizational culture. Are candidates treated respectfully; are they made to wait? Similarly how customers are treated when they make the usual or the unusual requests will indicate the premium the organizations put on customer centricity as a value and whether is delivers on that promise.

On the other hand, our HR & business process also shape & reinforce culture. If you integrate stakeholder &customer feedback in the performance management processes; then it sends an important message that this an aspect that the organization puts a premium on. Does your reward structure reward only individual goals / achievement but also team goals/ achievement? If it rewards team goals/ achievement; then it will drive the behaviour of teamwork. It won’t happen in a week, a month or even a year but the results will follow. My big belief in life is that people behave based on what they are measured on and rewarded for.

Q-What is an agile organization to you and how to develop an agile company culture?

This is an interesting one. For me being agile is the ability to respond quickly to changes – whether those are opportunities or threats like new competitors; technology disruptions etc. Agile organizations are nimble even if they have scale; they move and adapt faster – and this is the key to their success. I want to clarify that very often we assume that being agile/ entrepreneurial and process oriented are mutually exclusive but that is not the case. Standardized work processes and ways of working build efficiency that frees up our time to do work that creates value.

In my mind; developing an agile company culture requires clarity of vision & purpose, ways of working and decision making powers combined with high levels of accountability and transparency of information. But above all, it needs an environment that allows for risks & failure.

Q- What is culture of your company, Arvind Lifestyle Brands Limited and what are values and behaviours?

At Arvind, we believe in high impact performance by our employees where a premium is put on behaviours such as action orientation; entrepreneurial spirit and accountability all of which create a ‘will – do’ culture.

Our values are Service, Innovation, Living the Brand, Collaboration and Care.

Q- Any concluding remarks?

If I had to summarize it in two statements

  • Building the right culture needs to be a priority for all leaders.
  • Actions make a company culture, not words.

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