Saurabh Deep Singla, EVP & CHRO, Ecom Express on people-first culture

Saurabh Deep Singla, EVP & CHRO, Ecom Express on people-first culture
Corporate culture is not just a highly significant indicator for overall employee satisfaction and business success, it is also the foundation on which companies can redefine themselves in the new normal.

Saurabh Deep Singla, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) for Ecom Express Private Limited, a technology-enabled end-to-end logistics solutions provider to the e-commerce industry.

He is responsible for preserving the Company’s unique culture of positive engagement with its 45,000+ employees and counting, overseeing talent management and development, diversity and inclusion, culture of safety, HR policies, and programs.

His experience has been an invaluable asset for Ecom Express, leading the Company to grow threefold on employee base and twofold on location spread assuring employee delight across the country.

Saurabh’s experience in HR portfolio spans over two decades of career extending to both Corporate and Business HR roles across diverse sectors and complex businesses (both-B2B and B2C) has provided him with hands-on knowledge and proven ability to work with multiple stakeholders and complex matrix organizations spread across continents.

Q- What is the biggest challenge CHROs face when it comes to organizational culture?

We are living in a new normal. It’s normal in which the global COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift in how and where we work. This has put organizations, their business models, and ways of working to the test. Corporate culture is a key stumbling block. Many companies lag when it comes to building a future-oriented corporate culture. And even when organizations embrace the technology and remote ways of working their employees’ demand, the right culture remains the main accelerator to survive in the new world where uncertainty prevails, and trust is a valuable currency.

Corporate culture is not just a highly significant indicator for overall employee satisfaction and business success, it is also the foundation on which companies can redefine themselves in the new normal. There has never been a better (or more urgent) time for business leaders to reflect, take a step back and build a stronger, more sustainable workplace by re-inventing their organizational culture as they adjust to the new paradigm that is the working present. Transforming culture means constantly re-evaluating long-lived patterns to eventually reshape and embrace a holistic way of working. This approach provides the means necessary for a future-ready corporate culture where employees, leadership, and companies have the means to grow.

Organisations in the new normal are autonomous, agile, collaborative, innovative and continuously learning, entrepreneurial and customer-oriented. But they also have digital leadership and technologies and processes. As we slowly emerge from the global lockdowns, CHROs have a clearer picture of how resilient their business models are and where improvements are needed to operate successfully. Enabled by an operational digital culture, they can use that knowledge to redefine themselves, reinvent work, and put their companies on course for future success.

Q- Organizations are rapidly shifting to a people-first culture as part of the new norm, how do you see that?

Although the post-COVID world still seems like a distant, uncertain destination, lessons learned throughout the pandemic has more businesses weaving a “people first” ethos into their cultural fabric in the future. As we continue to reflect on the implications of COVID-19 in the context of the future world of work, there are some recurring patterns and ideas. This crisis has taught us to value frontline workers, who are making sure we get the essentials we need to survive. In the case of Ecom Express, it was our Field Executives who ensured they were our greatest strength during the pandemic.

Showing empathy toward employees’ experience is paramount. As we move toward a new normal, being intentional about how, where, and the ways in which we work will be more important than ever. However, adversity is always a driver of adaptation. The key to building a successful organization is having a culture that welds the people together. Corporate culture is not just an indicator of the company’s relation with its employees, but it is also a crucial point where organizations can make significant improvements.

From a business perspective, I imagine that organizations infusing a “people first” ethos into the fabric of their workplace, together with a strong focus on not overshooting the limits of our planet, will become tomorrow’s employers of choice.

Q- What are the important steps to shaping employee-first culture in the organizations?

Organizations should recognize that if they take care of workplace culture then the customer experience and profits will take care of themselves. Putting people at the center of the organizations’ thinking and decision-making will never steer it in the wrong direction. Culture is experienced in every employee’s action 365 days of the year. It is not about the organizational perks, being perfect, or being tied to a rigid set of rules. Culture is when employees feel empowered to work autonomously and make decisions driven by core values.

There is no doubt that life and businesses have been disrupted worldwide. Today, transparent decision-making is required, and rapid action is necessary. Employee safety and emotional wellness must be top of mind for all organizations. Managers, more so than anyone on the organization’s HR or leadership team, have the ability to create and maintain a people-first culture. By having direct contact and communication with individual employees, managers are in a better position to positively impact employee experiences. Overall, managers need to be empowered to transform the way they lead employees. Following are some of the ways through which managers can make a positive change:

  • Gain alignment: Align with owners, board, and senior leaders on the expectations of a people-first culture. Asking questions such as, “How can we define a people-first culture for our organization? What will it look like? Are our policies aligned to support this culture?” The answers will properly document expectations that fit the organization’s values and goals.
  • Ensure employee voices are heard: Managers can do this by following up on employee feedback, whether it’s from a pulse survey, engagement survey, or spoken feedback. After discussing the feedback, employees should be involved in designing a solution process that aligns with their goals.
  • Recognize employees:It is important that employees know their time, energy, and efforts are noticed not just by their managers, but by the greater team, department, and organization, too.
  • Align employees to company success: Employees should know exactly what is expected of them – the more clarity they have on their performance and how their goals align with the greater organization’s goals, the more engaged they will be.
  • Provide real-time, honest feedback: With genuine feedback, managers can act as coaches rather than simply evaluators. This allows managers to assist in employee development – both personally and professionally – while also giving employees a clear sense of how they are performing.
  • Walk the talk: If your organization’s leaders and managers cannot demonstrate how to embody a culture that values its people, employees will not know how to embody it themselves.

Q- What organizations should do to cultivate more “Human” Leaders?

Many organizations are trying to tackle the “disengagement virus” with a variety of initiatives and perks, but these have proven to have little to zero long-term effects on employee engagement.

I applaud every company that is wise enough to deeply care about its people’s happiness and engagement, and smart enough to know this is crucial to their business success. However, studies show that most companies are missing the mark and spending more time on superficial activities instead of creating the systemic and cultural changes that sustainable and positive changes require.

What the corporate world needs are humane leaders who wake up to the new reality of the 21st century and understand that their job, above all, is to inspire, empower and trust their people; create psychologically safe work environments where they can learn, grow and thrive, enjoy their work, and be inspired to give their best.

The most important role of the leaders of today is to build and lead teams, drive change, keep people connected and engaged, and create a culture of innovation, learning, and continuous improvement. When we know better, we need to do better.

Q- Any concluding comments?

Culture has always been a tricky concept. Often seen as a soft topic, culture is easily swept aside in favor of “real” priorities. In fact, HR leaders usually have to disguise culture management as some other initiative to get the resources they need.

Corporate culture is not just an indicator of the company’s relation with its employees, but it is also a crucial point where organizations can make significant improvements. Leaders really need to start and lead any culture change initiative, but it’s not what they say it’s what they do that will make the difference. Thank You, Saurabh!


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