Does workplace wellness strategy needs make over?

“The higher your energy level, the more efficient your body. The more efficient your body, the better you feel, and the more you will use your talent to produce outstanding results.” Anthony Robbins

I participated in a round-able discussion titled as "Design thinking to create winning employee wellness strategy" Oganized by People Matters along with Sanofi Pasteur on 12th April in Gurgaon, India. The debate and discussion that ensued propelled me delve deeper and to think whether the employee wellbeing agenda is at the forefront of Leadership mindset and significance and positioning that is required to be attached with the workplace well-ness Strategies of the organization are currently being practiced in the corporate world?

As per Constitution of the World Health Organisation, one of the key Principles defines Health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. While there is an extensive debate about efficacy and limitation of this definition in the larger Pharma world, the Corporate World has already started adopting strategies to redefine work-place wellness strategies where Wellness is not just limited to physical, emotional or social well-being, however, the scope is being expanded to include environment, intellectual, career and financial inclusion as well.

Workplace wellness programs have twin objectives - improve employees health resulting in enhanced morale and motivation and and lower their employers' health-care costs that impacts the bottom line.  While the direct linkages of organization workplace wellness strategies to employee productivity, customer satisfacation index and hence its leverage as a competitive business advantage is being worked upon and debated, however, time has come in for corporates to think eclectically and leverage its impact.  Few of the challenges that I see constraining organisations amidst changing workplace dynamics from leveraging its full potential are as follows : -
  • While there is a lot of talk, pomp and show about workplace wellness in organizations, however, expanded commitment of top has potential to further broaden and deepen it.
  • Are wellness leaders going to be responsible for employees careers and for ensuring that they have the right environment, if so, are we open to relook and shift existing organizational structures?
  • Enable & encourage employees to take vacation and come back rejuvenated. While working in USA, UK, I found taking time off work is part of workplace habit, however, in Indian context it is something that we need to work on shifting employee mind-set where accumulation over rejuvenation is given a priority.
  • A reactive approach to implementing wellbeing policies rather than focussing on prevention.
  • It is a common knowledge that when employees feel their work is meaningful and they are valued, supported and appreciated, they tend to have higher well-being levels, be more committed to the organisation’s goals and perform better and adopt and maintain healthy behaviors. We as HR Leaders need to ask question to ourselves - Are we leveraging the power of existing data and doing relevant diagnostic to design program and practices that suits the context of the organization or just picking up of the shelf program and practices here and there and doing it, as it is fashionable now to do so.
  • How are we going to deal with our obsession with direct cost vs indirect cost i.e. cost of presenteeism where employee is present in office, howoever, not working?. At times, such cost could be higher then absenteeism.
  • Our ability to understand significance of mental health and its impact in the workplace. Mental health problems can affect anyone in any industry and yet mental health is often still a taboo subject. I got exposure around it while working in UK and found it is still a taboo subject there to. While creating awareness is the first step, it is important that we work with Mangerial and leadership groups to bring a cultural shift to ensure that they are able to look at clues that help them identify creeping Mental Health problems, understand, empathize and see employee mental health as a priority against other operational demands.
While I see governments world over including India are taking steps to enhance overall public health well being of their citizens, It is imperative that employers make employee well being a core business priority as healthy workplace, enhanced productivity and increased employee engagement are interdependent. Promoting holistic wellbeing in the workplace is not only important for employees, their employers, however, also important fro the economy and society as well. It offers a win-win all round. Employees benefit from better support for their health. Companies benefit from less absence and improved productivity, higher customer satisfaction and society benefits from improved public health.

100 HR Super Achievers Award - I owe it to my career influencers!!!

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. William Arthur Ward

Having received Global HR Excellence “Exemplary Leader Award” for contribution in HR Arena at the Asia Pacific HRM Congress’ 2010, it feels amazing to be now counted amongst "100 HR Super Achievers of India" bestowed by World HRD Congress in association with The Times of India on 16th Feb-2018 at Hotel Taj Land End Bandra, Mumbai in a ceremony where more than 1000 delegates from 132 Countries participated.

Getting Industry recognition is not only a privilege, however, also an opportunity to express gratitude to various leaders, colleagues and friends who have contributed immensely in shaping your career. Here is the list of my Leaders without whom I won't be there where I am today! I can't thank them enough ever!

Vineet Sharma for instilling confidence in me, showing me through his deeds what Leadership is all about which helped me not only build a solid career foundation, however, also helped in my becoming a fine human being. 

Lex Hoekstra taught me what it means when we say "Respect for Individual" and how tough guys get going when it get tough.

Joan Amble taught me art of appreciation, coaching & guiding people to achieve their potential. 

Srikant Karra for giving me my first break in HR post ops stint and helped me excel in the art of HR transactional spectrum which was a pre-requisite to build a solid HR foundation.

Atul Chugh emphasis and push on developing team members "Lift them and they will lift you", was crucial in helping me develop career facilitation & coaching skills.

Saurabh Govil for  giving me a chance to work in HRBP role & showing confidence that a successful HR shared services Employee can be a fine Mainstream HR too!

Rohit Bhayana for kicking me hard to develop Business Acumen, Change Management and cultural transformation skills.

Biplab Adhya for Perceived Connotation - Always see it from other point of view. Best of intention can go wrong if you don't. 

Pratap G for Executive Suaveness, HR strategy, different strokes for different folks and Empowerment

Piyush Mehta for relationship building and how to navigate  through organizational interpersonal dynamics.

Vivek Gour for guiding me in his own inimitable style at crucial career juncture and telling me the skills that I need to build to rub shoulder with big daddies and also highlighting potential risks.

Ashish Khera : Operational Excellence & bias for action.

Sriharsha Achar for empowerment and creating engaging and happy workplaces.

Nipun Bhatia for pushing me to go beyond normal work approaches and build industry connect & credentials. 

Ranjan Bandyopadhyay for helping me evolve and add significantly to my experiential learning's and providing guidance and support at every critical juncture while exposing me to different facets of HR with scale and complexities including cultural sensitivity exposure through an international stint.

Nupur Mallick helped me learn how to adapt to shifting dynamics, significance of working on unconscious bias while giving me an opportunity to interface with Lynda Gratton who really made me sit up and think about future of HR & HR practices. 

Pramod Bhasin, Tiger" NV Tyagarajan, Afzal Modak, Abidali Neemuchwala, Dinanath Kholkar, VK Raman, N Sarma, Milind Dhuru, Bawa Grover, Anupam Singhal, Eleni Nicholas are some of Leaders that I have looked up to who has directly / indirectly helped in shaping my thought leadership.

There are people in our HR Industry who have implicit influence on me since my young age include Dr Aquil Busrai, Santrupt Misra, Prabir Jha and Marshall Goldsmith - a chance 1 on 1 meeting many years back due to flight delay helped build lot of perspective.  

Also thanks to Talees Rizvi, Sundeep Chandra, Dr Arun Sacher, Ester Martinez and RL Bhatia  for helping me add to my experiential learning's through multiple industry interface.  

Thank you everyone and I express my gratitude to all of you for directly / indirectly shaping me through my career journey so far!

Gender Pay Disparity - We must bridge the gap to take India forward...

"It's indisputable that there's a real pay gap. People can argue about how big, but that's almost besides the point. The point is that every woman, every girl, deserves to get paid what they're worth." —Sheryl Sandberg.

The recent headlines - Google Sued by 3 Female Ex-Employees, Who Say It Pays Women Less than Men drew my attention to dwell on Gender Pay Gap issues.

During my stint in United Kingdom, I found lot of Media coverage on the captioned, however, in India, the issue is still not at the forefront of Media / Corporate discourse while significant progress is being made in Euopre, UK and USA to draw policy makers attention towards Gender Pay Gap issues. 

For uninitiated, The gender pay gap is the average difference between a man's and a woman's remuneration. There are two distinct numbers regarding the pay gap: unadjusted versus adjusted pay gap which takes into account differences in hours worked, occupations chosen, education and job experience. Gender Pay gap in United Status has been summed up well in the below quote. 

"We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn't a reality yet. Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change." Beyonce.

United Kingdom, Equality Act 2010 was augmented with regulations which require Employment Tribunals to order an employer to carry out an equal pay audit where the employer is found to have breached equal pay law. In the United Kingdom, the aggregate gender pay gap has been on the decline and even reversed for certain age groups. Further, April 2018 onwards employers with over 250 employees will be required to publish data relating to pay inequalities. Data published is to include the pay and bonus figures between men and women, and will include data from April 2017.

A recent survey of international employment law firms showed that gender pay gap reporting is not a common policy internationally. Despite such laws on a national level being few and far between, there are calls for regulation on an EU level. 

Now let us dwell on what is happening in India. 

India has been a permanent member of the ILO Governing Body from 1922. In September 1958, India ratified the C100 Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951, which addressed the issue of equal pay between men and women for work of equal value. This convention requires all member states to direct their national laws and policies towards guaranteeing equal remuneration to all workers, regardless of gender. In an attempt to ensure compliance with this convention and in response to the Report by the Committee on status of women in India, the government enacted the Equal Remuneration Act 1976, In India, the Constitution also recognised the principle of 'Equal Pay for Equal Work' for both men and women, and 'Right to Work' through Article 39(d) and 41. 

Further, while analyzing the level of female participation in the economy, a report slots India as one of the bottom 10 countries on its list. Thus, in addition to unequal pay, there is also unequal representation, because while women constitute almost half the Indian population (about 48% of the total), as their representation in the work force amounts to only about one-fourth of the total. 

According to Monster Salary Index 2016, women on the whole still make 25% less than men, and as many as 68.5% of women in Indian workforce feel they have experienced wage inequality. 

There is no country on earth where women make as much as men for the same work, according to the World Economic Forum. It predicts the global gender pay disparity may take up to 170 years to close. The pay data for India certainly isn’t bucking this trend in spite of Equal Remuneration Act coming into force in 1976.  Unequal pay dogs working women in India. 

If we want to eliminate the pay gap and perhaps even reverse it, we should bring discourse in the mainstream and at the forefront of corporate governance. While doing so, we must also pay attention to women’s continuing difficulties in balancing work and family life. 

It is imperative that we pay attention to Gender parity with renewed vigour and sense of urgency as it will not only accrue business benefits however, also provides thrust to India's economic and social firmament. 


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