2021

Barranquilla, gateway for an Indian multinational to Colombia

The company CSS Corp, dedicated to the service sector, opens its second headquarters in Latin America in the Atlantic capital. They will work with local talent

The capital of the Atlantic will be the gateway to the Colombian market for the multinational of Indian origin CSS Corp, dedicated to the service sector, in what represents the vote of confidence of this business segment for the city.

“The range of local talent, the booming local economy, the compatibility of the language and the investments of the local government in developing bilingual skills make Barranquilla the ideal destination for us in South America”, explained to EL HERALDO , Jayagopi Andhoor, vice president of CSS Corp .

Andhoor added that “the location and the high levels of connectivity and infrastructure” make the city a “favorable place” for real-time global collaboration.

The headquarters in Barranquilla will be the second presence of this firm in Latin America, after its headquarters in Costa Rica, which was installed in 2013.

Plans in Barranquilla

The firm’s office in the city will start operations the first week of May, according to Andhoor’s advance, and the selection of personnel is already underway.

At the moment, 50 new jobs are planned for the opening date, but they clarify that the goal is to reach the end of 2021 with more than 100 collaborators.

The company will also run a long-term talent training program.

“In order to perfect the existing skills in Barranquilla, we will develop a program together with universities and training centers, and train them with the qualities required for the customer support industry , ” said the senior executive.

The Universidad del Norte, the Universidad del Atlántico, the Fundación Santo Domingo and the Sena are part of the institutions with which the training program is being prepared.

Investment destination

Ana María Badel, executive director of ProBarranquilla, pointed out that the arrival of this multinational “confirms the investor’s confidence in the technology sector.”

“Having human talent trained every day makes the territory an export platform for nearshore (United States) and offshore (Spain) services,” added Badel.

According to data from the promotion agency, in 2020 and so far in 2021 five multinationals from the service sector have settled in the city.

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#InternationalHRDay: Top lessons to learn from Tech HRs

Top lessons of the HRs of the IT industry that is trying to help the employees amid the second wave of the pandemic.

Pandemic has been very difficult on the employees and even more on the Human Resources that are giving their best. However, the tech industry faced a lot of impact amid the pandemic. But how the HRs have managed to help the IT professionals?

Here are the views of some top market leaders on how they survived COVID-19 and learnt from it.

Arun Dinakar Rao, Chief People Officer, Birlasoft said, “The pandemic has forced organizations to adopt and accelerate their digital journeys, dynamically altering the way organizations look at their technology roadmap and has shown a new way of building and engaging with ‘work-from-anywhere teams.”

“HR professionals were quickly able to get a sense of employees’ worries and concerns while also considering the various business impacts. HR professionals have led the way to keep employees and their workplaces safe and healthy. Thank you HR Professionals for all you do and for helping us create better workplaces!” – SJ Raj, Senior Vice President, HR Operations, Newgen Software

“The onslaught of the variants and waves have made even the most brave-hearted to be mentally fragile. An immense amount of support and efforts have to be made for positivity to flow continuously like oxygen. While HR traditionally plays this role, the enormity of the task is relatively high. But, as they say, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP, Head – HR (Global) and Corporate Quality, CSS Corp

 

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Workplace Wellness: Physical, mental, social and financial

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught a lesson or two to both employers and employees on the importance, attention, and focus needed to be given to the overall wellness of people at workplaces, where they spend a major portion of their working lives.

The pandemic has disrupted the way the world lived and worked. It has caused a lot of mental, physical, and emotional stress to everyone.

Adapting to a new working culture has also added extra fatigue to the lives of employees. It has been over a year into the pandemic and HR leaders across the world have taken different initiatives to maintain the wellbeing of their employees.

The pandemic has really brought employee wellbeing onto the centre stage. Companies realize that employees are their valuable assets, and in difficult times like the pandemic, companies have to make extra efforts to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees.

Employee wellbeing is often misunderstood to be only confined to physical wellbeing, whereas it is a wide term that encompasses an employee’s physical, mental, psychological, social, and financial wellbeing.

Moderating a panel discussion at the Phoenix CXO Virtual Summit 2021, organized by ETHRWorld on September 30, Yuvraj Srivastava, Group CHRO, MakeMyTrip, said, “There is more consciousness about health and wellbeing in the minds of the employer as well as the employees, because of the pandemic. It has now struck everyone that they have to be far more careful about their health and wellbeing.”

Why should organizations invest in employee wellbeing?

“People are critical, as they are the key to the success and survival of the business and from there stems the need of investing in wellness,” said Anjali Rao, HR Leader and Senior Director, Intel India.

Employee wellbeing is extremely important for Employer Value Proposition and from the standpoint of the business because employees are the building blocks of a company. Organizations work hard to acquire the people with very niche technical skills and these are the skills that are built after investing a lot of time and effort. Employee wellbeing thus becomes very important for retaining the talent and building it further by investing in it.

“Employees’ health, psychological and emotional wellbeing is no longer a question of whether or not, it’s about how now,” said Chitresh Sharma, Co-founder and CEO, Refyne.

Employee wellbeing is very important for any organization and it is not a new concept. It has been there for a long time, but it is critical to get it right otherwise it is of no use for both the employer and the employee. The need is to come up with a programme that is relevant to the needs of the employees at that point in time and constantly evolving to keep up with the changes.

Mental and emotional wellbeing of employees

Talking about the increased interest and awareness about employee wellbeing, Namrata Gill, VP – Corporate HR, Dr Reddy’s, pointed out that earlier employees took wellness programmes as something that was thrust upon them by the management, but ever since the pandemic hit, there has been a positive shift in the attitude of the employees towards these programmes.

HR leaders believe that there is a need for a well-rounded and holistic approach to designing employee wellbeing programmes. Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and Head – HR (Global) and Head of Corporate Quality, CSS Corp, said, “The answer when we try to define workforce wellbeing is lifestyle wellbeing.” He further stated that every organization believes in a set of values, and the core values within an organization should be, respect for individuals because no one is going to stay for long if they are not respected.

Talking about emotional wellbeing, Visvanathan further said, “Instead of just putting money in their pocket, we also need to put an arm around them.” He suggested that having the resources to come out of a situation really helps the employees but knowing that their organization is there with them in their tough times gives them a sense of both financial and emotional security. “Personal support and providing solace to people that we as an organization are there for them has a huge impact on the morale of an individual and also overall wellbeing,” he added.

Financial wellbeing of the employees

The financial wellbeing of an employee is extremely important and probably is the area where the least innovation is done to date. Chitresh Sharma, Co-founder and CEO, Refyne, pointed out that a major chunk of a person’s time is spent in education and another major chunk in the organization they work for, but no one actually makes an effort to teach them how to manage their personal finances.

Sharma further suggested that organizations need to take a step towards helping their employees in maintaining their personal finances by redesigning the payroll models, for example commencing the salaries on a more regular basis, say weekly or biweekly. He also suggested that this change has to be brought through automated technology because finances are very individualistic in nature.

Adding to this, Vishwanathan said, “We need to ensure that financial complexities are not running in the minds of our people. Giving people a salary is also not enough. We also need to help them learn the art of creating wealth.”

Commenting on Sharma’s suggestion to commence salaries on a more regular basis like weekly or biweekly, Vishwanathan said water needs to be judged before jumping in.

Namrata Gill and Anjali also echoed Vishwanathan and said that Indians culturally operate in a way where we clear all our bills in the beginning of the month, so, for a change like this the entire ecosystem has to be changed and this process would take time although this could be a reality in the future.

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Ethical AI in 2022: Why It’s Time to Confront Biases

Ethical AI can no longer be an afterthought for the enterprise; it must be built into the fabric of AI, believe experts.

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) begins to play a much larger role in our daily lives, streamlining our work, resolving customer issues, talking to us as companion bots, driving autonomous cars, and helping employees make more informed and faster decisions, ethical AI can no longer an afterthought for the enterprise; it must be built into the fabric of AI.

“AI ethics” refers to the organizational constructs that reaffirms commitment to corporate values, policies, codes of ethics, and guiding principles in the age of AI. These constructs set guidelines and governance for AI throughout the organization, from research and design, to build and train, to change and operate,” says Prashanth Kaddi, Partner, Deloitte India.

Issues around ethical AI have garnered more attention over the past several years with tech giants from Facebook to Google to Microsoft and IBM have already established and published principles to demonstrate to stakeholders — customers, employees, and investors — that they understand the importance of ethical or responsible AI.

The pandemic has further proved that businesses are betting big on AI, with analyst firms forecasting AI investments to grow from $27.23 billion in 2019 to $266.92 billion by 2027. And as investments increase, the need to give the technology a “moral compass” has become more urgent.

However, there is growing evidence that AI based applications can lead to increased discrimination based on gender, class, caste, ethnicity, religion and other identity forming characteristics. As Prof. Amit Prakash, Associate Professor and Coordinator at IIIT-Bangalore observes, “This can come through an inadequate attention to the processes associated with collection of digital data used to train the AI models as well as through algorithmic biases, which get introduced when design teams are not sensitive to, or even aware of, the diversity in the implementation context.”

Ethical AI trends

Talking about the ethical AI trends in the market, in 2022, Rahul Joshi, CTO, CSS Corp notes that there will be a high demand for responsible AI solutions in the market. Responsible AI solutions offer a range of capabilities that help companies turn AI principles such as fairness and transparency into consistent practices.

“If we look at the industry today, most tech or non-tech organizations generate consumer benefits and business value by leveraging 70% to 80% AI-led operations and creating AI-infused products and applications,” says Joshi, adding that while AI can be a helpful tool to increase productivity and reduce the need for people to perform repetitive tasks, it can also give rise to a host of significant unintended (or maliciously intended) consequences for individuals, organizations, and society.

He believes, there are many cases where the algorithms cause problems by replicating the (often unconscious) biases of the developers/programmers who built them. So, it’s crucial to ensure that comprehensive datasets are used. Most organizations have bias bounties in place, and this trend will run rampant in the coming years.

“To ensure that no company is marred with data or AI ethics enrage that can impact its reputation and revenue, it’s imperative to build an ethical & responsible AI,” says Joshi.

 

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Future of customer experience: Virtual experiences infused with a human touch

Customer experience has taken on a new definition and dimension amidst the current COVID-19 crisis. Customer expectations have heightened as purchase priorities have shifted and buying behavior has changed. What was earlier considered as a good customer experience is table-stakes today. Most businesses across all sectors are now keen to reorganize their approach to customers.

Today, brands are toiling hard to deliver experiences to modern, digitally savvy customers through new technologies and tools like real-time messaging, chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, and self-service.

But we’re getting to see an interesting shift towards ‘buying into companies’ rather than simply ‘buying from them.’ Trust is becoming multidimensional.

In the face of the ongoing pandemic and beyond, the real challenge is not just to stand out but to continue pivoting and innovating for keeping customers hooked.

Prepping for 2021? Here are some emerging trends
Let us unpack what the future of customer experience will look like.

1.Dynamic Customer Engagement: Before COVID hit the world, customer service tended to be more reactive, burdening customers to find the best channel for getting a solution themselves. But no more!

A Gartner research reveals that dynamic customer engagement (DCE) is the way forward. This strategy would help companies deliver differentiated customer experiences by leveraging data to glean actionable insights and offer the next-best-action recommendations to customers proactively.

2.Zero UI: While many brands are busy leveraging AI to automate answering services and manual tasks, intelligently route tickets, and augment messaging for chatbots and human agents to handle queries more efficiently, the technology of Zero UI is likely to catch on soon.

A Forrester research reveals that brands are likely to embrace touchless zero UI (ambient and haptic user interfaces) technology that leverages gesture, voice, and proximity to build and deliver new digital product experiences tailored specifically to each user.

3.From Omnichannel to Channel-less: This is not a trend exclusive to 2021. Most businesses today invest in offering omni-channel experiences to their customers. Some organizations that aligned their messaging, goals, objectives, and design across all devices and channels to offer a seamless omnichannel customer experience have succeeded the most in the recent few years.

However, it is important to evolve the mindset to move beyond the sheer number of channels and the internal processes that bind them. From a customer’s perspective, they do not really care about a channel but the experience. A channel is incidental. A person could even be using two channels simultaneously while interacting with a brand. Hence, it is imperative to create a digital infrastructure that can blur the boundaries between distinct channels and provide a seamless and ubiquitous experience to customers. This is improving with every passing year and the trend will continue.

4.Rise of the Bionic Support: It is being increasingly realized that customers of tomorrow will seek bionic customer service i.e., service that blends digital functionality for speed and convenience, as well as thoughtful and caring human interaction when the customer needs and demands it.

The Boston Consulting Group estimates that making telephony agents bionic could give organizations a competitive advantage of 15 percentage points in cost-to-income ratio, driven by improved cost leverage, deeper relationships, and reduced customer attrition. Such organizations would be more likely to outpace their competitors with their sustainable competitive advantage.

5.Technology is not everything: All relationships have an emotional component. And this holds true for consumer-brand relationship too. Forrester predicts that as and when the pandemic fades and people ease into more in-store experiences, consumers will be favoring brands who have instilled confidence and trust with their actions in the face of the ongoing pandemic on delivering superior customer experience.

According to a Salesforce research, 71% of clients believe companies that have demonstrated more concern and empathy this year have earned more loyalty over time.

Invest in the Right Areas to Invigorate Your Customer Experience Strategy
Adapting well to the post-Covid-19 landscape calls for brands to recognize, that, what worked a year ago is not good enough today.

If organizations are willing to invest in the right areas such as virtual hiring, adequate training and deployment of the latest technologies and tools that meaningfully connect with the business context, they will get ample opportunities to forge stronger relationships with their customers and grow their bottom line.

In 2021, it is recommended that brands focus on turning more empathetic as customers are likely to measure their efforts and value proposition on the human scale. Hence, it makes sense to invest in building a corporate culture with empathy as one of the strongest core values in 2021.

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CSS Corp to Appoint Sunil Mittal as its CEO

BANGALORE, India & SINGAPORE – May 26, 2021

CSS Corp, a global customer experience and technology consulting services provider, today announced that its board has unanimously chosen Sunil Mittal as the organization’s next Chief Executive Officer. Sunil Mittal, currently the Chief Operating Officer at CSS Corp will take up the new role effective July 1st succeeding Manish Tandon who is stepping down after engineering a successful turnaround and generating tremendous value for investors. In addition, Sunil will also join the company’s Board of Directors upon assuming his new role.

“After a well thought out and executed succession plan, we are pleased to have found the best individual to assume leadership of this world-class technology and customer experience services organization,” said Sanjay Chakrabarty, Chairman of CSS Corp’s Board of Directors and Managing Partner of Capital Square Partners, a Singapore based private equity fund manager and majority shareholder of the company. “In his current role as the COO and in his prior role as the company’s Chief Revenue Officer, Sunil has architected unprecedented revenue momentum and pipeline for the company. We are confident that he will be able to build upon this foundation and take the organization to the next level. Sunil’s strong business acumen and industry knowledge deeply connects with CSS Corp’s clientele and operations, and his leadership qualities make him best suited to lead CSS Corp successfully into the future.”

“We are extremely thankful to Manish Tandon, CEO for his contributions to CSS Corp. Under his dynamic leadership, CSS Corp made a successful turnaround over the past four and a half years and grew at 25% in the latest financial year ending 31-Mar-2021. Manish used innovation and technology as the underpinning of the turnaround strategy and created CSS Labs which is recognized as an innovator in this space. He also built a world-class management team and established strong data-driven processes leading to industry-leading profitability and scalability of the business.

“I’m honored and grateful to the board for the opportunity to lead this exceptional organization of passionate, customer-centric and talented professionals,” said Sunil Mittal. “We are redefining traditional services through our unique intersection of industry-leading proprietary solutions,
resilient operations, and innovative business engagement models. We are well-positioned to continue our growth momentum with our compelling value propositions. I’m excited about this opportunity and look forward to collaborate closely with our clients and employees.”

Mittal has had an illustrious career of over 22 years in the technology services industry. He spent 18 years at Infosys across multiple geographies, managing large client accounts, incubating new business capabilities, and building C-level relationships. He joined CSS Corp over four and a half years back and managed global sales, marketing, presales, and account management. Recently, he took over as Chief Operating Officer where he assumed the responsibility of global client delivery and IT, in addition to his existing portfolio. He serves on several association boards, including the Partner Advisory Board of the Technology Services Industry Association, and is a member of the Forbes Business Council. He currently resides in Dallas, Texas.

Manish Tandon expressed his confidence in the board’s choice. “Sunil is a remarkable leader who has been one of the chief architects of our success over the years at CSS Corp. I’m very happy with how the organization has turned around and is well positioned for growth under his leadership. I carry with me, the goodwill and best wishes of almost 9,000 employees and the board. It has been a very rewarding journey for me and all stakeholders with CSS Corp over the last 5 years, and I wish Sunil the very best. ”

 

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CSS Corp to hire 1,300 people from campuses, plans IPO by 2023-end

The company is also looking at going in for an IPO towards the end of 2023 as a standalone business

CSS Corp is looking at hiring about 1,300 people in India from various campuses in the coming year, in line with the strong growth momentum being experienced by the customer experience and technology services provider, its Chief Executive Officer Sunil Mittal said.

The company, which has about 6,000 employees in India, is also looking at going in for an IPO towards the end of 2023 as a standalone business.

Speaking to PTI, CSS Corp Chief Executive Officer Sunil Mittal said the company has recently crossed the 10,000-employee mark globally and India accounts for a significant portion of its headcount.

“We have doubled our headcount in 2.5 years…Out of 10,000, we have, around 6000 are in India. Costa Rica has almost 1,000 people now and it will go to 1,500 people in the next year. We are well-positioned to double the headcount (overall) again in three years,” he added.

Mittal noted that the company is planning to hire 3,000 employees to net globally this year, of which 1,800 have already been added.

Talking about campus hiring, the executive said the company plans to hire 1,300 in India through its campus recruitment programme.

CSS Corp C2C program (Campus to Career) has been launched, which will engage students/engineers while they are in college through paid internships. Also, it will enable them on specific deep courses required while working with the clients.

“We have also invested in cloud labs for students to get hands-on training in different programmes/products. A lot of the focus is on how do we get the right talent in the system, how do we retain and mentor the talent. We are fairly confident that we will be able to maintain this kind of growth trajectory for the coming quarters,” he stated.

CSS Corp is also undertaking an initiative to hire 100 ex-Armed Forces Service personnel in India. Mittal pointed out that there is a special emphasis on increasing the women ratio across the company as well, and the company wants to expand the ratio of women staff from 36 per cent currently to 50 per cent in the next two years.

The executive stated that the company grew at 25 per cent in FY21, and expects to do better than that in FY22, and is well-positioned for growth in the coming years. “…we have enough bookings and deal wins which makes us confident that we can continue with this momentum in the coming quarters…We will end this year at around a 225 million USD annual run rate,” he added.

In February this year, Capital Square Partners (CSP) – a Singapore-based private equity Fund Manager and Startek’s majority shareholder – had acquired a controlling stake in CSS. At that time, Startek – which competes with CSS Corp – had said it has participated in this transaction by contributing a total of USD 30 million in a limited partnership managed by CSP to acquire both an indirect beneficial interest of approximately 26 per cent in CSS, as well as an option to acquire a controlling stake.

Asked if the company was looking at an IPO, Mittal said the company is looking to go public towards the end of 2023 as a standalone business.

He added that while it is too early to talk about the size of the offer, the company hopes to be around USD 350 to 400 million USD from a top-line perspective by the time it goes public.

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CSS Corp Wins 2021 Gold Stevie® Award for Sales & Customer Service

CSS Corp, a new-age IT services and technology support company, today announced that it has been presented with Gold Stevie Award in the ‘Best Use of Technology in Customer Service – Computer Industries’ category at the 15th Annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service, for their customer experience transformation platform.

CSS Corp’s customer experience transformation platform transforms contact center ecosystems holistically across the business application layer, the CRM platform and the CTI system. Clients can pick and choose across a basket of flexible modules with pre-built integrations. Based on the customers’ imperatives, telephony migration to the cloud or CRM re-alignment can also be done to structure an optimized and agile ecosystem.

The platform streamlines end-to-end customer service delivery, across customer acquisition, support, and retention, with an outcome-based approach. It unites the three essential pillars of customer service, namely, customer experience, operational efficiency, and agent productivity, seamlessly with shared intelligence and insights. It leverages cutting-edge technology, including AI, cognitive RPA, analytics, and augmented reality, to deliver customized solutions for clients, and ensure tangible business benefits for them.

Speaking on the occasion, Manish Tandon, Chief Executive Officer, CSS Corp said, “When contact centers faced unprecedented disruptions due to rising customer expectations and the shift to virtual operations during the pandemic, CSS Corp stood strong using its proprietary technology platforms. Our customer experience transformation platform is designed by strategically infusing technology interventions at all stages of the customer journey to drive unprecedented service level consistencies. Winning the Gold Stevie Award is another indicator of our capabilities and positioning to drive unique value creation for our clients as we take a pragmatic approach towards the digital transformation journey.”

“In the toughest working environment in memory for most organizations, 2021 Stevie Award winners still found ways to innovate, grow sales, please their customers, and secure new business,” said Stevie Awards president Maggie Gallagher. “The judges have recognized and rewarded this, and we join them in applauding this year’s winners for their continued success. We look forward to recognizing them on April 14.”

More than 2,300 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry, in 51 nations, were considered in this year’s competition. Winners were determined by the average scores of more than 160 professionals worldwide on nine specialized judging committees.

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Covid: India Inc adds mental health of employees on their priority list

As the ongoing second wave of the pandemic exacerbates the pressure on teams and individuals, more Indian companies are making mental health an urgent priority for businesses. Live meditation, mental health sessions with specific focus on vulnerable groups, extended weekends, special holidays, free subscription to wellbeing apps and 24×7 counselling helplines —companies are running a series of initiatives to help stressed-out employees, with senior leaders playing increasingly active roles in the process.

At Genpact, the CEO and senior leaders communicate often through various channels across all levels of the organisation, EY’s leadership team does regular virtual connects. The Edelweiss Group has regular outreach programmes and townhalls by the leadership to express solidarity and support with employees.

“Our leaders hold a pivotal role in the recovery — they are the company-wide anchors to help ease concerns and rally teams,” said Piyush Mehta, Genpact’s chief HR officer.

“We have initiated small sessions, by business, with no agenda — so people can just talk about what is on their mind, and the support they need. We built an AI chatbot (Amber) to check in with our employees to capture immediate concerns and needs so we can support them better,” he added.

To ensure that employees do not feel isolated, EY has recently introduced EY Social — its inhouse platform of hobby clubs. The India leadership team has been conducting regular virtual connects with teams through forums like counselling family, regular team huddles, virtual townhalls, etc.

Companies such as ICICI Lombard, Snapdeal, MakemyTrip, Diageo and Publicis Sapient are also focused on mental health and wellbeing.

“We have been organising emotional counselling sessions, yoga and meditation sessions and collaborated with therapists and experts from the field of stress and anxiety management for consultations,” said Yuvaraj Srivastava, Group CHRO, MakeMyTrip.

Diageo has an employee assistance programme to provide counselling services. They are also conducting mental wellness sessions: the ones for employees cover effective stress management, avoiding digital burn-out among other issues, while those for line managers focus mostly on how to manage teams in terms of mental wellness.

Snapdeal is providing its employees and family members access to licensed counsellors, organising meditation and breathwork classes; Publicis Sapienthas mental health first aiders and sessions with specific focus on women, people facing domestic violence, etc.

Adobe India has company-wide day o􀂃s every third Friday as well as free access to meditation and wellbeing applications like Headspace and LifeDojo.ICICI Lombard has introduced flexible working — no meetings prior to 9amand after 7pm and no weekend/holiday meetings. L’Oreal will be hosting sessions for people managers leading teams to train them to better manage productivity with empathy.

“HR teams are in constant touch with the employees to build psychological morale and extend support to access quality and affordable healthcare. I speak with every Covid-impacted employee to offer support and guidance, which helped me understand the ground-level challenges they face,” said Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, Head of HR (global) and corporate quality, CSSCorp.

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Corporates reach out with digital detox, voice-out forums, HR chatbots

The pandemic and the lockdowns have left a trail of loss and grief and it becomes imperative, now more than ever, to scale up quality mental health services at all levels. This is what countries across the globe felt the need for at the World Health Assembly in May 2021.
Accordingly, corporates close to home are already adapting to the post-pandemic setting and doing their bit to raise awareness and destigmatise mental health issues. Read on…

‘Okay to not be okay’

While employee mental wellbeing was always a topic of discussion, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown brought the issue to the fore with corporates aligning their goals in this direction.

“Owing to the challenges of the pandemic, several of our employees shared how they were experiencing feelings of isolation and burnout and their inability to use the pre-pandemic informal networks and support systems such as friends or co-workers. Many employees were hesitant about sharing these emotions and were unsure about where they should seek support. Against this background, it was important to assure our employees that ‘It is okay to not be okay’,” says Neerja Bhardwaj – HR Business Partner, India Technology Centre, GE

“We acknowledge the ills of the ‘daily grind’ and have tried to prioritize a healthy work-life balance for all our employees. In the initial days of remote work, as teams were settling in, we encouraged them to take days off for their ‘mental health.’ We suggested teams keep a few working days call-free or zoom-free, to give them a break from being on video calls. Additionally, we also offered 12 weeks of paid time off from work to employees who have spent a certain number of years with the company and at regular intervals after that, employees are given another six week sabbatical. Also, there isn’t a limit on the number of sick days that an employee can avail if one needs them,” adds Tina Vinod, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Thoughtworks.
Katarzyna Kern, global head of HR at ANSR, stresses that it is essential to encourage employees to explore their emotions and discuss how they are feeling at work. “It’s also crucial to have a working culture that encourages employees to talk about their personal problems,” she adds.
Buddy system at work

Lending a helping hand to fellow employees are mental health advocates within the organisation. “Advocacy plays a key role in driving positive change and we have developed a voluntary network of more than 1,600 mental health advocates who regularly reach out to their colleagues so that everyone can have a colleague who is ready to listen and discuss mental health issues, and we can proactively provide support where needed,” says Lakshmi C, managing director and lead, human resources, Accenture, India.

Safe spaces to show we care

Companies have also gone beyond regular workshops and confidential counselling sessions with their employees, Sindhu Gangadharan, senior vice-president and managing director, SAP Labs India, informs, “Our Employee Care Cycle aims to de-stigmatise mental health issues by outlining the cycle of support from prevention to cure.”

A recent initiative they rolled out aims at providing a safe space for colleagues to share and talk about their grief in the presence of others with similar experiences.

“Voice-out forums and safe spaces for employees to freely share their experiences with their colleagues did help us in helping out our employees at India Technology Centre,” says Neerja, adding that they also have Wellness Day offs for employees to rejuvenate.
Lakshmi adds that earlier this year, Accenture had upgraded their medical insurance policy to include mental health consultancy reimbursements for dependent family members.

Technology to drive change

While technology has received the short end of the stick, companies across the country have tried to use it to reach out to employees. Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and head – HR (global) and head of corporate quality, CSS Corp, says, “Our 24/7 employee assistance provides counselling and aid to employees, and HR chatbots automate responses to queries, leading to faster issue resolutions. Additionally, we have been conducting virtual mindfulness sessions and digital detox (digital quarantine) to enable employees to find the right balance amid their hectic schedules.”
Sudeep Ralhan, vice-president of people, Walmart Global Tech India, adds that they have leveraged technology to ensure a wider range of personalised options for each employee. “And now that organisations and people have had a taste of the many benefits of tech-enabled focus on mental wellbeing, I see the adoption increasing substantially over the next few years,” he adds.

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