In Conversation with Roshni Wadhwa Director – HR, L’Oreal India
Roshni has been in the Human Resources domain for over two decades of experience across sectors and geographies. She has contributed significantly to L’Oréal India by leading and driving key people initiatives. As a true enable to the CEO, Roshni has helped create people-centric culture fuelled by leadership transformation programs, talent management strategies, employee-centric policies, and hiring programs that have enhanced the culture and positively affected the company’s growth.
One of her most commendable achievements have been transforming Human Resources from a function within the company to an important business partner that can change the course of a company’s progress and build a strong reputation and desirability in the market.
She is passionate about traveling and uses her leisure time to explore new experiences. She spends her free time reading about different cultures, social issues, and global communities, incorporating the insights to create a substantial change in the world around her. Roshni is Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Pune and she is also certified coach by ICF institute.
Q. How has the COVID19 crisis impacted your organization?
We have been talking about VUCA for a very long time; however, we are truly living it today. Every organization is feeling the impact of this global pandemic, irrespective of size and industry.
But it is organizations with a strong culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and agility who are quickly adapting to the new ways of working and creating new business models. Fortunately, L’Oréal has always had these qualities at the core of our culture. Being a digital-first organization, we were quick to adapt and move our work and work-streams online.
Since we have always empowered our employees with the freedom to be agile, we transitioned smoothly into the WFH scenario, barring the uncertainty brought on by the global and local situation.
When you have a very strong foundation, and empathetic and adaptive leadership, it is easier to build large plans on them and ensure you keep your teams safe and protected. That is exactly what allowed us to build a lot of layers on our already rather comprehensive portfolio of resources, to ensure we meet the varied concerns of our employees.
We have also leveraged the collective intelligence of our teams by keeping our ears to the ground and working on ‘bounce back’ plans.
The immense learnings from this crisis will clearly impact long-term strategy and what we considered ‘normal’ till date.
Q. As CHRO of L’Oréal, how are your priorities changed in the past couple of months?
We’ve seen a very dynamic interplay of our priorities in the last few months, ranging from ensuring the safety and health of our employees, keeping them engaged and connected to us despite WFH, to innovating and adapting ourselves to meet the new norm.
Consistently, our biggest priority has been ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of our people, our biggest assets. Aligned to that we have significantly innovated and enhanced our medical and healthcare solutions for them, in addition to the most stringent safety and protection measures being rolled out.
Another focus for us has been to make sure our employees continued to feel connected to us and heard, which can be difficult if everyone is working off a different place. We have done this through regular communication, updates, wellness programs, virtual town halls and fun, engaging team meets. I honestly feel this has led us to be even more connected than we were before.
In parallel, we have been working towards adapting to the new norm and ensuring our programs are not waylaid due to this crisis. In fact, our teams have worked determinedly to modify our regular initiatives and deliver them online for our colleagues and stakeholders. Of course, our technical support has played a huge role in making this happen, but we were actually able to move our B-school competition Brandstorm onto a completely virtual platform this year. This was an extraordinary achievement with more than 100 participants logging in from their homes. We also completed our Summer Internship program a 100%virtually, including projects and social interactions. In fact, we have just started the process of virtual onboarding our new batch of Management Trainees. Our training interventions have also now been converted largely onto a virtual platform and going forward most of these programs will either be 100% online or a combination of online and offline.
On the leadership front, demonstrating empowerment, collaboration and inclusive leadership has been the need of the hour, and we devised multiple sessions and work-streams to drive these across teams and employees. This crisis has paved the way for a whole new way of working and we are developing many initiatives and projects to tap into those and optimize their potential.
Q. What have been the big resets in people policies to address the current pandemic situations?
Like I shared earlier, we have greatly enhanced our policies where needed, to cater to the needs and concerns of our employees.
Our health and wellness policies have been reviewed, and while found quite robust, we have gone ahead to add significantly more offerings to them, along with easier UIs and experiences for those platforms.
Our insurance plans have been redefined to meet the pandemic requirements and providing a wider range of coverage for various situations arising out of it, as well as ensuring better health and protecting self and family as a priority.
With public transport being a concern we have relooked certain travel arrangements as well as offered financial assistance towards the purchase of vehicles.
It is fairly certain that business travel, on the whole, will reduce even after the COVID19 crisis. Besides lingering safety fears, people have figured it is possible to conduct business without travelling. Even before COVID19, at L’Oréal, as part of our journey towards adopting a more responsible and sustainable business model, we have been relooking at our business travel to reduce our carbon footprint and have the ambition of reducing our business travel by 50% by 2030. Moreover, with collaboration tools like Teams offering such a seamless and convenient experience, the need to travel extensively is significantly diminished.
Q. In the current situation, how are you mitigating the challenges in the areas of Learning and Employee Experience?
The current crisis has served as a catalyst for new ways of learning and engaging employees. From a classroom-first model, we have now pivoted to a completely virtual model, focusing on longer learning journeys and smarter use of technology in learning, thus paving the way for whole new ways of learning.
From the start of the remote working period, our teams demonstrated a great deal of agility and launched a host of programs under our ‘Learning Never Stops’ initiative. We empowered our participants to own their learning & decide what and how they would like to learn. For example, new programs around working effectively from home and managing self & teams remotely were designed and rolled out.
To enable employees to learn anytime, anywhere, we are heavily leveraging our global learning management system, which has over 10000-course titles and all-access partnerships with premium providers like Coursera, TED, Philonomist, Wiley e-Books, etc. in a mobile-first format. We are increasingly employing gamification & testing the use of technology like AI, AR, VR in engaging our learners.
In order to provide ‘mass customization’ of learning journeys to employees, we are hosting a series of open webinars – local and international – along with targeted programs for specific functions or groups of employees. In addition, we are using learning as a strong lever to sensitize our employees towards safety during the crisis and embedding ‘bounce forward’ skills to power our businesses as we return to the new normal.
Our curious and engaged employees have seized the opportunity provided by the lockdown and invested the time in upskilling themselves; we saw a 4X increase in learning hours during the last 4 months alone.
Q. The biggest reset which is going to happen is C&B, how are you relooking at Rewards, Leaves, and Wellbeing?
The scale and impact of living through this pandemic are permanently changing the way we think, prioritize, and make decisions. Naturally, it will change employee expectations for good.
We understand this and are very conscious of the changing needs and expectations of both the employees and the business.
A couple of trends which will impact the total rewards space will be:
Renewed focus on the ’Care‘ &’Protect‘ pillars of Share & Care, our global benefits framework
- This means various health insurance based benefits will be in high demand amongst employees. We have already witnessed higher demands on our Voluntary Parental Policy. Recently, we have also covered all our employees with an additional COVID19 cover, which gives a lump sum to anyone who is diagnosed with COVID19 for covering any cost like medicines, care charges etc.
- We have been preparing to launch an employee centric ‘Flex Benefit’ system, which will empower employees to choose their customized benefits plan including additional flexibility to opt for a health plan, which meets the need of the employees and their families.
Renewed focus on Holistic Wellness
- Our internal program ’Wheel of Wellness‘or WOW focuses on holistic employee wellbeing – including Health, Mental Wellness, Financial Wellness, Physical activities, and Nutrition
- In the last couple of months, we have quickly pivoted to digitally transform the whole program and launched several virtual initiatives branded under #wellnessneverstops. The program has seen unprecedented uptake by a large number of employees and has been widely appreciated.
Flexibility Leaves and time-off – Focus on Work-Life Balance
- L’Oreal as an organization, we have always had a strong focus on promoting a work-life balance with practices like ’Remote Working‘, Flex-Timing, Sabbaticals, ’Mandatory leaves‘, and best-in-class parenthood policies, etc.
- In recent times, this element has assumed a completely new level of significance for employees. There is a higher appreciation for personal time and family time. We will soon launch a new initiative called ’Work Smart‘which will offer a dynamic culture of flexibility which we feel will be crucial going forward as we settle into the post COVID19 world.
- On the compensation side, we foresee a much greater emphasis on cost optimization given the impact this pandemic will have on business growth.
The inevitable medium-term impact of this would be lower salary increase budgets for the coming year. In this context, our focus would be to ensure continued retention and motivation of key talent. This can be achieved through sharper differentiation of rewards for talent and by creating a stronger linkage of rewards to performance through smartly designed variable incentive schemes.
Q. Any concluding remarks?
COVID19 is not just a health crisis, but also an economic and social crisis. This adds to the complexity of managing work and workforce. However, the crisis has brought forth multiple opportunities. Many organizations are talking about digital acceleration, tech reset, and new ways of working. However, it is also extremely important to nurture our leaders with people skills and build the culture of togetherness and inclusiveness. While the DigiTech world will be critical in how we work in the future, we must ensure to sustain the ‘humanistic’ values that are intrinsic to our collective success.
Thank you, Roshni!